I won’t begin to claim even moderate objectivity when it comes to seeing Clutch live. The band has passed the 30 years of existence mark. They keep putting out consistently great records, every one just slightly different than the last. They tour constantly. They’re one of the few bands who figured out how to work through the pandemic, and make what they do work for them. In my opinion, from their self-titled album through Robot/Hive Exodus, Clutch put out essentially perfect records.
My dumb high school band did a cover of “Animal Farm,” from their self-titled album. We were ostensibly pop-punk, but that track ripped. It was also my introduction to the band, so I’ve my buddies Eric, Ryan, and Joe to thank for getting me into them. I probably haven’t been the same since.
As a live band, I’ve seen them in a variety of venues in several states - most recently at the last Bunbury Fest to happen before the pandemic. My favorite, though? In the middle of a snow storm in Chicago in the year 2001, at the House of Blues. And now, Friday’s show at The Andrew J. Brady Music Center.
Opening the night in almost operatic fashion, Nate Bergman took the stage alone to belt out an introduction to the evening. It was bold, I’ll give him that, but he has the pipes to back it up. Humble, smiling, obviously enjoying himself, he and his band played whiskey soaked, dimly lit dive bar southern rock with just the right amount of swagger and sway. For a stage so large, it felt shockingly intimate.
Next was a band I’d heard of, but hadn’t checked out yet for one reason or another. I honestly don’t know why - Amigo The Devil has toured with another of my all-time favorite bands, Murder By Death, several times. I should have listened to them by now, and feel silly for not having done so.
They put on an entertaining, fun and funny, and energetic set of twangy rock with a dark throughline. Sinister tongue in cheek, each song played with just the right amount of minor key piano, I can see why they work so well with bands like Murder By Death and Clutch - they really sound like a marriage of the two, with a healthy dose of sarcasm laid over it all. A really great set front to back - I’ll definitely be checking them out and making sure I catch them live again when they roll through town.
When a band like Clutch takes the stage. No. When Clutch takes the stage, you can feel everything shift a little bit, the whole room shakes itself, the floor moves just a little bit. A Clutch crowd is a singular thing - an entire space filled with fans wearing their favorite (or newest) Clutch gear. The merch line was never less than 50 people long. This is a fanbase who is unspeakably proud of being fans of everything Clutch. Whether you consider them metal, stoner rock, southern rock, hardcore - whatever you think they are, even when they’re all of those things and more simultaneously.
So how does a set spanning a 30 year career work, especially within a discography that takes as many wild left turns as theirs? Well, if you’re Clutch, start near the beginning and go from there.
Starting all the way back at Transcontinental Speedway League, their first full-length, then making their way through their self-titled album, with stops at Blast Tyrant, Strange Cousins From the West, Earth Rocker, Psychic Warfare, Book of Bad Decisions, and their latest offering, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, Clutch’s set leaned more towards relatively recent output. Was I bummed to miss out on hearing anything from The Elephant Riders, or my personal favorite, Robot Hive/Exodus? Absolutely. Was it awesome hearing “Passive Restraints” and “Spacegrass” live? Goddamn right it was.
What’s super fascinating about Clutch is how seamlessly their various musical paths wind together and make sense as a whole. The band who wrote “A Shogun Named Marcus” is, at least sonically, a totally different band from the one who wrote “Nosferatu Madre.” But somehow it all works together, a wild story of an enigmatic, thoughtful, literary metal band who have transitioned into a prolific, ceaselessly interesting rock band that still acknowledges those metal roots - even when they’re performing songs about how to make the perfect Maryland crab cake.
For an hour and thirty minute long set, it sure went by quickly. The band packed about as much rock and roll into that time as possible, and holy shit, I loved every minute of it. The Andrew J. Brady Music Center was a perfect space for a band like Clutch. Big, loud, and full of one of the most engaged and truly fanatic fan bases of any currently performing band.
I hope they come back through again real soon. I’m already ready for more.