With all the craziness that the Winter Holidays bring, it’s nice to see that there are some traditions which are still being kept alive. One of the top ones here in New Jersey is Clutchmas. The annual tradition where the rock band Clutch leaves their home base of Maryland and descends upon the Starland Ballroom, plays to a sold out crowd and leaving the audience with a feeling of wonder and glee.
It’s pretty wild to think that Clutch has been composed of the same four members for the past 30 years. By definition alone that makes them a legacy act, and yet they aren’t missing a step with their live shows. Their unique stage show keeps bringing audiences to the venues with it’s simple, stripped down production. They don’t wow you with pyrotechnics or have a ridiculous light show rivaling a laser show at the local planetarium. Nor do they have any other gimmicks that many bands employ to get the crowd into the show. The band just takes the stage and owns it for 90 minutes. Clutch’s only “gimmick” is being able to please the audience with a barrage of good blues based songs with lyrics. Ask ten Clutch fans what their favorite song is, there’s a good chance you’ll get a number of different responses. Yet the fans won’t argue as to which is better, in fact they’ll probably all agree that they’re all good selections.
Being in a crowded room with large number of fans can be a very daunting task these days. Yet the typical Clutch audience is pretty low key. There’s no fighting or arguing. There is an audience there rocking out to the band who just brings it and leaves it all on the stage everynight. This night was just that.
With a 30 year catalog, you’d be amazed at how much of a change their setlists can have to them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them play the same setlist twice, perhaps on the same tour, but the band tends to mix things up and they do it VERY well.
Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster started the evening with his intro groove to “Impetus”. The slow build up of bass and guitar rhythmically building to a point where vocalist Neil Fallon explodes along with the crowd singing “OHHH IMPETUS”. At that point until the end of the show, the band had the crowd in the palm of their hand. There were no wrong songs in this set. It was complete and utter brilliance. Clutch has absolutely mastered their craft of delivering a solid product each and every night. Within their 90 minute set comprised of 20 songs they managed to check off a number of popular tunes along with a few which haven’t been played much- and even one which isn’t released. This is one of the nice things about owning your own record label- you only have to answer to yourself.
The crowd was very pleased to when Mr Fallon announced that they were mixing and mastering a new album to be released sometime in the future.
Part of the magic and universal love for Clutch is the fact that each member of the band just has to focus on their instrument. Simply put, Tim looks at his guitar as he plays. Dan focusses on his bass and keeps the heavy low end groove in time with Jean-Paul on the drums. This frees up Neil to walk about the stage. Part preacher, part madman, part poet- all Neil Fallon does is rock out for the entire set. Engaging the audience with every word, his delivery and cadence is simple yet sublime. From “Spacegrass” to “Passive Restraints” to “Rats” all the way to the encore of “Wishbone” the band gave it their all. There was no mention of the current “issue” in the world, but Neil made sure to thank everyone for coming out on a Tuesday night to see a rock show because Clutch people are hard working people, and Clutch is a hard working band.
Review and photos by Bryan Bardes