LIVE: Clutch @ The Roundhouse, London

By Chelsea Smile

A few weeks before tonight’s show, it was announced that Clutch would play not one, not two, but THREE sets at the UK’s Ramblin’ Man Fair in July 2020. Friday will be a headline set of hits from their distinguished back catalogue, Saturday a stripped back semi-acoustic laden groove-fest, and Sunday a full on Go-Go, Funk and Blues jam. This unprecedented triple festival feature is testament to their rock solid fan base this country, largely due to the consistency of their album cycles and tour patterns since they’ve been performing here, as well as their awe-inspiring musical versatility.

So, as they roll into the capital to play Camden’s famed The Roundhouse venue almost three years to the day that they last performed here – on what will be the final gig of the decade for many of us – they already have a fully captive and insatiably hungry crowd. There’s no point checking the Setlist FM cheat sheets from the most recent shows in the hope of pre-planning beer and toilet breaks when you’re dealing with a band like Clutch, because they’re capable of doing a different set each night – and that’s exactly what they usually do.

The holiday season has begun for many and as Clutch are known as the drinking man/woman’s band anyway, most are cheerily getting as many jars in as they can before it’s show time. The general atmosphere is one cultivated by a mature and likeminded community, with punters upbeat in the knowledge that they’re certain of exactly what they’re in for – a safe space, and a good time.

Front man Neil Fallon and co take to the stage, casually dressed as always, and promptly open with oldies but goodies ‘Burning Beard’ and ‘The Dragonfly’, Fallon articulating each lyric with energetic force under deep fuchsia lighting and in front of a huge banner stating the band’s name in bold red letters.

Clutch released their latest album, ‘Book of Bad Decisions’, in September 2018, so they’re not particularly promoting the record at this point and quickly burn through two of the only three songs they’ll play from it tonight – ‘How To Shake Hands’ and ‘A Good Fire’, the latter being a politically charged anthem. Precious time isn’t wasted by chatting when they’ve no shortage of music to play and ‘Mercury’, ‘Profits of Doom’ and ‘(In The Wake of) The Swollen Goat’ are all belted out as we swill beer, dance manically, and imitate lyrics. Fallon addresses the audience with a charmingly polite “thank you very much” before he’s handed an electric guitar and, after a hasty fiddle, exclaims “Okay, moving right along” before bursting into ‘A Quick Death in Texas’.

Then it’s back to their current release with ‘In Walks Barbarella’, which precedes ‘10001110101’ – a bona fide Clutch anthem that has everyone in the room repeating the two digits with the competence of providing their personal phone number to a new acquaintance.

They then blast through ‘Struck Down’, ‘Sucker for the Witch’, ‘Subtle Hustle’, ‘Ghost’, ‘Nobel Savage’ and ‘The Face’ before it’s time for the encore just over an hour after they started. It might sound like a short gig, but thankfully, the Americans are men of few words and prefer to concentrate on the songs, allowing their fans to fully immerse themselves in the concert.

The brief encore begins with Fallon directly encouraging us to see them again, “Come on down to Ramblin’ Man”, he urges us, “It’ll be a grand time!” It would have been absolutely criminal for Clutch to have not played ‘Electric Worry’, and as they close the set with this the inebriated crowd collectively bellow, “Bang, bang, bang, bang! Vamanos, vamanos. Bang! Bang! Bang! Vamanos, vamanos!” before they finish on a cover of ‘Fortunate Son’, a Creedance Clearwater Revival classic.

Finally, Fallon bids us adieu, “You’ve been fantastic, we wish you a prosperous 2020!” He then grabs a printed out set list from the stage and points purposefully at a fan he’s handpicked in the front row, gently handing it to them and giving a meaningful double thumbs up as he imparts with the money-can’t-buy memento.

What a guy. What a band. What a night.