Words: Alan Daly
Pictures: (C) Olga Kuzmenko \ Olga Kuzmenko Photography
With the constant uncertainty and turmoil in the world over the past few years, it’s good to know some things are thankfully predictable. And although the timing of this twice-postponed event is not one of them, the reliability of a top-class live show courtesy of Maryland rockers Clutch surely is. Our return to Dublin’s Academy after well over 2 years is as welcoming as ever, although one might not think this was a sold-out show-up on a timely arrival before the support act. The only surprise is a curious restriction preventing access to the spacious but empty pit between the stage and crowd for accredited photographers meaning they must negotiate with diehard fans for a spot at the rail to get those intimate shots for your viewing pleasure.
Warming up audiences on this European tour are French duo The Inspector Cluzo, a name we had never heard before tonight. Locals might well be forgiven for the lack of familiarity considering this support slot marks the debut Irish performance of their 15-year career, a fact acknowledged and apologized for by vocalist/guitarist Laurent Lacrouts during their set. Piggybacking their musical careers on top of busy French farming life, it’s no surprise that agriculture and defiance weigh heavily in their lyrical inspirations. We can’t help but be reminded of Tenacious D, with Lacrouts bearing more than a passing resemblance to Jack Black, not just in appearance, but also in his mannerisms. Sporting an otherwise remarkable formal dinner jacket and trousers, he is upstaged by drummer bandmate Mathieu Jourdain dressed in a formal white shirt and black waistcoat, belying the raucous behavior to follow. Comparisons with the aforementioned Hollywood comedians don’t distract for long, however, and we are quickly blown away by the serious (yet lighthearted!) talents of these “people of the soil”, with tracks like ‘A Man Outstanding in His Field’ and ‘Saving the Geese’ telling true tales of life on their farm to the beat of uptempo rock.
Their limited time on stage passes quickly and before we know it, the pair are destroying the drumkit mid-song, explaining the previously observed damaged cymbals. The rock and roll lifestyle is alive and well! As the Frenchmen wrap things up with a traditional farewell in their native Gascon language, the venue is only nearing capacity, and those who didn’t make it there early certainly missed out on a well-chosen and very entertaining support act.
There aren’t many bands as hard-working as tonight’s headliners. Clutch have been regular visitors to these shores over the years, which in itself is commendable given the logistics and costs involved in bringing a show to the relatively small rock & metal community in Ireland, and tonight’s return has been massively anticipated. The pandemic caused inevitable tour postponements and undoubtedly contributed to the four-year wait between Book of Bad Decisions and the forthcoming Sunrise on Slaughter Beach; the biggest hole in their soon-to-be 13-album studio album catalog. The familiar warm-up track ‘We Need Some Money’ playing over the PA lets us know it’s time to rock, and after a humble walk onstage greeted by deafening cheers, the speakers explode with the high-energy paranoid sci-fi opener from Psychic Warfare – ‘X-Ray Visions’.
Suitably awakened, we are quickly treated to a couple of old-school deep cuts from the early 90s followed by the ever-unpredictable smorgasbord of delicacies from their plentiful repertoire. Two tracks that were no surprise to the initiated are ‘We Strive for Excellence’ and ‘Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)’ – singles shared online ahead of the September release of Sunrise on Slaughter Beach, and judging by the singalong, the front row fans are pleased with the latest offerings. As expected, the extroverted Neil Fallon commands the stage throughout, ever animated with gestures and facial contortions emphasizing thoughtful and trivial lyrics alike. His introverted bandmates Tim Sult and Dan Maines, on guitar and bass respectively, are like the foundations of a house – stationery, inconspicuous, but solid and crucial to the strength of the whole.
Despite the earlier praise for unpredictable setlists, there are some tracks whose omission would surely disappoint the casual and even most diehard Clutch fans. The trio of ‘The Regulator’ (made famous by The Walking Dead), ‘Earth Rocker’ and ‘Electric Worry’ bring the show near to its finale. Moshing and crowd-surfing, normally reserved for heavier gigs, have the crowd heaving, surely a cathartic release of pent-up energy of recent times. Appropriately, wrapping up with ‘The Mob Goes Wild’, Fallon & co leave the stage almost as unceremoniously as they arrived, as grateful for the cheers of the fans as the audience are for another kick-ass show.
Make sure to pick up Sunrise on Slaughter Beach, released September 16th on their own Weathermaker label.
Rock n Roll Outlaw
Promoter (Of Earthbound Causes)
In Walks Barbarella
Sea of Destruction
We Strive for Excellence
What Would a Wookie Do?
A Quick Death in Texas
12 Ounce Epilogue
Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)
Lord of This World (Black Sabbath cover)
The Mob Goes Wild