@ The Forum, London, UK
1st May 2014
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Photography by Michelle Murphy
It may say The Forum above the door, but tonight this is the church of Clutch. Say hallelujah and enter all ye with the luck to have a ticket; it’s promised that you will leave changed. If they call rock a religion then Clutch are surely some offshoot branch that’s not always widely acknowledged but really touch something inside the attracted masses. They say God has a plan – well Clutch must feature in there somewhere.
If as with one punter people are turning up early to “see Clutch open for themselves”, well I wouldn’t take any more tips from whoever sold you that one. Warming up the stage are Lionize (8/10), label mates and fellow Marylanders. Sometimes Tim Sult plays guitar for them too. Not tonight though.
They start with a smoulder but by “Breather” it’s like someone let out a big lungful because they’re really starting to smoke.
Bass man Henry Upton shakes his head in a fevered groove, the same one that keeps the girls dancing and heads banging. There’s a Hendrix-style string scratch from guitarist and frontman Nate Bergman, the keyboard is singing, and despite the minimal drum kit it’s really going up now. Lionize are just running with it and we’re glad.
Wait did they just take a bass groove into something melodic, something with a reggae vibe? Damn that’s good.
“Sea Of Tranquility” makes Bergman’s roughspun voice ripple like a stone in water, whilst “Reality Check” is kind-of-Clutchy in a funky fashion. The band are slipping from one song to the next, and we’re under a bit of a spell, a voodoo made of groove and keys, and conjured by just the four of them.
These guys don’t scrimp, if the song’s that long it’s that long and you know what? They hold your attention to the very end. Good work guys.
Sea of Tranquility
Amazing Science Facts
As ever, the spacey-funk of “We Need Some Money” by Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers heralds the entrance of Clutch (10/10). So unassuming is their dress, Sult’s comfortable trousers make him look a bit like a dad with a hobby, for a moment they could be anyone.
Then “Earth Rocker” kicks in, and it truly feels like it could make the ground move; that Clutch could truly open this pit right up with a chasm right down the centre of the fucking venue.
Instead we get a holy trinity of oldies – “Profits of Doom”, “The Mob Goes Wild” and “Cypress Grove” – each an absolute classic, and each sees the crowd submit themselves completely. And there’s Neil; all wide-eyed and gesticulating as though he truly has something to impart, that this isn’t just a series of notes and words but something you need to sit up and take notice of.
He’s not the only one – the overall effect is that Clutch are channelling everything they have into tonight, and then borrowing some more.
“Love thy neighbour” seems to be the motto for tonight because from front to back the pit is full of smiling faces, and there’s no divide – complete strangers catch one another’s eyes and those smiles widen, hands clap backs or reach across shoulders. ‘Cause you see Clutch are an experience, a shared thing, and everyone here feels it.
It’s almost a hymn in these parts, roared back in adoration by the crowd, and “The Regulator” doesn’t disappoint slowing things down so you can feel the sweat rising off those stood next to you, before “Book, Saddle, & Go” and the headlong “Crucial Velocity” whip the crowd back into a frenzy.
Dropping into the set like a stone, the gorgeous “Gone Cold” sees Neil strap on a guitar, and it’s almost like trying to swallow a lump in your throat and feeling it trace a cold path, like being touched by a ghost. And it’s mesmerising. Like when the blues tell you a story and you just ache with understanding. It resonates for a second, but what comes after blurs that feeling till it’s almost forgotten in the midst of yet more crowd-fuelled enthusiasm.
Lionize’s keys guy, Chris Brooks, adds the extra element to the “The Face” and the bonkers “10001110101”, before “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” dismisses us all. And don’t wait for the bell.
Problem is no-one wants to go. Stamping feet worry The Forum’s floorwork and voices cry out, and finally there’s the second coming led by “D.C. Sound Attack!”. Which truly does attack, cowbell and all. Finally an extended, and oh-so-good, “Electric Worry”, which mutates straight into “One Eye Dollar”.
Full circle on the cash titles then – forget collection plates Clutch should just hold out swag bags after for this crowd would be happy to fill them after tonight.
“If you’re gonna do it, do it live on stage or don’t do it at all.” There are so many bands who probably should be in the latter category. But not Clutch. Clutch fucking do it every time. That’s why we love them, because whilst others play at being bands, they just are one. And they’re bloody brilliant.
Profits of Doom
The Mob Goes Wild
Mice and Gods
Book, Saddle, & Go
The Wolf Man Kindly Requests…
D.C. Sound Attack!
Unto the Breach
One Eye Dollar