Live: Clutch w/ Valient Thorr & Lionize – Manchester Academy 18/12/2016
Since the death of James Brown in 2006, no other band has shown themselves to be worthier successors to the title of “Hardest Working Band in Show Business” than Maryland natives Clutch. It’s hard to think of a time when the blues rocking 4-piece weren’t in the middle of a tour or recording a new album. Testament to that workaholic ethos, tonight sees them playing Manchester for the second time on their 14+ month Psychic Warfare world tour.
First up on the menu is Lionize, who may be familiar to Clutch fans due to the fact that Tim Sult appeared on a couple of their albums and Jean Paul Gaster produced their last LP. But that’s not to say that they are here to make up the numbers. Their brand of reggae infused blues funk serves as the perfect opener to tonight’s festivities. And as Tim Sult joins the guys on stage for a song, you can tell that this tour has been a true family affair.
Arriving on stage to the strains of Europe’s The Final Countdown, Valient Thorr knock the intensity up a couple of notches. Valient Himself is a hirsute bundle of barely contained energy, transitioning between jogging, muscle posing, air guitaring and doing push ups whilst delivering a truly excellent vocal performance. And the rest of the band are not far behind him. With warnings about your friends possibly being robots and being thankful for Manchester curry and cider, Valient Thorr show they can entertain but they also have a cerebral side to their music. A tough act to follow.
The familiar sound of Chuck Brown’s We Need Some Money means the Clutch boys are back and ready to go. Cyborg Bette from 2013’s Earth Rocker leads off proceedings and sets a blistering pace. Neil Fallon takes his position up front, pacing back and forth across the stage delivering his lyrics with intensity while Tim, Dan and Jean Paul play their parts like the well-oiled machine they are. As a band that tours as consistently as Clutch does, it’s no surprise that they are one of the tightest musical entities around and with very little showboating going on from the musicians, they just let the music do the talking. Decapitation Blues takes three attempts to get going due to some guitar technical issues, but when moving again, there’s no stopping as the tunes just keep coming. Chris Brooks from Lionize takes up organ duties on 10001110101 to help complete the authentic album sound and an extended guitar and cowbell jam session during D.C. Sound Attack rounds off the main body of the set. After the band and capacity crowd catch their respective breaths, an encore double whammy of Electric Worry and X-Ray Visions brings the curtain down on tonight’s show and Clutch’s European tour.
I’ve yet to see Clutch play a less than excellent show, and tonight was no different. But with Valient Thorr and Lionize added to the mix, I’m finding it hard to come up with reasons why this should not be my show of the year.
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