Clutch / Taint – Birmingham 29/08/08

Barfly, Birmingham 29/08/08

Thanks to some truly retarded motorists on the M5 I didn’t arrive in the Barfly until half way through Taint’s set. To be honest, that suited me fine as the jury is still definitely out on this band. They confuse me, I really don’t know what to make of them. On the one hand they clearly have some amazing riffs that blur the lines between post hardcore angst and good old stoner/doom crunch. They also have an extremely powerful sound with Jimbob’s bark being spat out with grit and conviction a plenty and live their presence is almost palpable. On the other hand though, they seem to forget that the song is the key, sticking a bunch of clever riffs together, no matter how good they may be, does not make a song. I’ve done my best to listen to both albums and seen them live twice now and, although I can remember what they sound like can I remember a single riff or melody? Can I buggery!!! “I Fulfil I” is described as a “long song…about doing whatever the fuck you want to do”. Great, if playing a long drawn out dull as fuck load of cack as part of a 30 minute set is what you really want to do then please be my guest. Still, the faithful at the front lapped it all up and it has to be said they get a fantastic response from the crowd so maybe I’m just missing something here.

Fortunately Clutch are a revelation. For nearly twenty years now America’s finest blue-collar rockers have been spreading the rock and roll gospel around the world and are greeted with almost reverential awe by the Brummie crowd. Even the roadie that wanders on stage is treated like a minor deity before the band stroll on and kick into “Elephant Riders”. From here we get 90 minutes of ass-shaking rock as we are treated to a career retrospective that is all highs and no lows. The set list doesn’t feature anything from “Transnational Speedway League…” or before or anything from “Pure Rock Fury” but all other bases are covered. The faster songs such “Mob Goes Wild”, “One Eye Dollar” and “Power Player” are met with a mosh pit that rivalled anything I can remember of all those 80’s thrash gigs I used to attend as a kid. The slower tunes such as “Basket of Eggs” and “Escape from the Prison Planet” see an outbreak of groove in the crowd that’s almost sexual.

For the entire set every one of Neil Fallon’s popular culture referencing soundbite lyrics is spat straight back at him from a hundred frothing mouths, each person hanging on every lyrical refrain. “Electric Worry” sees not one but two mass singalongs from the throng, pre-empting Fallon’s start to the song by a good few bars and muscling their way into the mid section breakdown where the band don’t even bother to play preferring to let the crowd take it. It’s a spine tingling moment!!!

Clutch have often been criticised for their tendency to jam. Yes they jam but when those jams are as tight and funky as this I can see no-one complaining. The crowd got a chance to rest their throats for a minute and get down to some serious grooving as if they were at some illegal rave in the early 90’s. Even J P Gaster’s drum solo drew some appreciative whoops and cheers from the crowd.

In short, this show was a masterpiece, a lesson in rock and roll class that made Taint look like apprentices despite their 13 or so years in existence. Clutch are without doubt the finest live rock and roll band on the planet right now and America’s best kept secret…shhh, let’s keep it to ourselves!!!

Scribed by: Ollie Stygall