Review: Clutch – Cardiff Student Union Great Hall

Sigiriya, took to the stage there was already a sizeable crowd in place to welcome them. They took full advantage with a powerful and very well received set of bluesy, somewhat stoner rock. Vocalist Matt Williams lends great presence at the front of the stage and the wall of sound cascading down from the stage got a great reaction. In the last twelve months I have seen Phil Campbell et al play five times, in venues that have varied from two festivals to a tiny pub in Plymouth. In my view this was the best yet as the band continue to gel. Phil seemed even more laid back than usual (is that even possible?) and the sound was spot on, crisp and clear. There isn’t a huge amount of chat from either Phil or vocalist Neil Starr, the music just rolls forth in waves and the crowd respond in kind, throwing energy and a choir of voices back. “Big Mouth” and “Step into the Fire” are played as one extended track as are “Freak Show” and “Born to Raise Hell”. “Get On Your Knees” is sung back at the band by a crowd in a way that would have graced the stadium just down the road. As always Phil introduced “Ace of Spades” by dedicating it to the members of Motorhead no longer with us, and a moment’s introspection leads you to an understanding of just how long he has survived amongst the excesses of his previous band. Then Tyla Campbell thrashes out that immortal bass line, Dane, Todd and Phil blast out the riff and Cardiff explodes. There can’t be many ways of better warming up a crowd ready for the headliner! There isn’t much of a wait for Clutch. I have never seen such a simple set up for a gig. At the side of the stage there is no mass of flight cases and tech and the stage itself is as bare as it is possible to be. A drum kit, two amps and some mic stands. Intro music booms out and Dan Maines, Jean-Paul Gaster and Tim Sult wander on stage with brief acknowledgements to the cheering fans, pick up and plug in their instruments and launch into the set. I have no idea what Neil Fallon does off stage before a gig to warm up but as he takes the stage his intensity is immediately at maximum and he powers into “Prison Planet”. One of the great things about a Clutch show is you have absolutely no idea what they will bring out on the setlist as every show is different, and tonight is no exception as that opening song shows! Few bands deliver a show of such simple intensity and power. There is no stage show to hide behind. No fireworks or fancy lightships. Just three musicians quietly cranking out huge riffs and driving rhythms and a singer who commands the stage like no other. Fallon stalks and prowls. One minute looming over the audience almost daring anyone to hold his gaze and the next surveying the swaying sea of faces before launching himself off to the other side. Halfway through the set the band pull out some real surprises when they introduce “Red Horse Rainbow” and “Willy Nelson” to the huge delight of the fans and both sound as fresh as daisies. The highlight of the set (as always for me due to it’s sheer power and class) is “Electric Worry” which tonight is simply immense. There are usually a few complaints about the sound at the Great Hall but tonight it sounded pretty damn good! Even better, I got to watch from stage side which was a true privilege! “Passive Restraints” closed the show proper as another surprise and the band left the stage to huge cheers and applause. After a bit of a cool down they reappeared and ended our evening with “H.B. Is In Control” and set closer “How to Shake Hands” leaving the crowd a sweaty and exhausted but satisfied mess. Review and Pics – Rob Wilkins Flickr image gallery available here.]]>

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