January 7, 2016 Clutch Shake Up Terminal 5, NYC w/ Valkyrie & Crobot 12-29-15
Frederick, Maryland’s Clutch have cultivated a rabid fan base over the last twenty plus years on the strength of their always innovative, varied recordings, and their relentless touring. Playing well over one hundred shows every year, Clutch is a working man’s band that never disappoints live. Since their inception, fans and critics alike have tried to identify their sound, calling them Stoner-rock, Heavy Metal, Doom, and Blues-Rock, amongst others. The fact remains, Clutch is a Rock-n-Roll band that is clearly influenced by a myriad of sounds and styles, but always puts their signature spin on them. Featuring Tim Sult on guitar, Neil Fallon on vocals, J.P. Gaster on drums, and Dan Maines on bass, the quartet brings world class skill and creativity every time they take the stage. On Tuesday, December 29th, Clutch brought their blistering live show to New York City’s Terminal 5.
Opening the show was Virginia’s Valkyrie. Comprised of brothers Jake (guitar/vocals) and Pete Adams (guitars/vocals), Alan Fary (bass), and Warren Hawkins (drums), Valkyrie brought their Doom-inflected Rock-n-Roll to the stage for a set of hard, charging music. On the heels of their first studio album in seven years, 2015’s Shadows, this opening gig with Clutch was a fitting way to end a great year.
Playing songs like “Mountain Stomp,” Valkyrie’s sound screamed late ‘60s Proto-Metal with a deep, bending riff, a sturdy bassline, and frenetic drums. Throughout the track, melodic solos pierced the sound before a guitar rave up in the middle section that echoed the best of mid-70s Rock-n-Roll. Carrying the heavy torch onward was “Golden Age” with cascading drums and a plodding riff for a mid-paced dirge. Southern Rock elements were incorporated into the numerous solos throughout. “Temple” found the band dabbling in heavy Psych for the first portion as distorted, loose guitars darted in and out. The track would eventually settle down into a classic Doom groove replete with menacing vocals and endless guitar flourishes. They later went back to their debut, 2010’s Man of Two Visions, with“False Dreams” which featured a heavy, start-stop riff and sycophantic drumming. Those looking for hard driving, Doom-laced Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, played loud and with incredible skill, look no further than Valkyrie.
Next up was Pottsville, Pennsylvania’s Crobot. Featuring Brandon Yeagley (vocals / harmonica), Chris Bishop (guitar), and brothers Jake (bass) and Paul (drums) Figueroa, Crobot laid down a blistering high-energy set of rowdy, fuzz-drenched, bombastic Rock-n-Roll. Having an equally fantastic 2015 touring with the likes of Anthrax, among others, Crobot’s 2014 Wind-up Records debut, Something Supernatural, is still turning heads a year after its release. With all the touring this band has done, it would be almost silly to think Rock fans do not know who Crobot is yet, but if some inside Terminal 5 did not, they were about to find out.
Frontman Yeagley careened around the stage in a state of constant motion. “Legend of the Spaceborn Killer (Visualizer)” started their set with a crunchy riff and pounding drums. The heavy, groovy riff echoed classic Deep Purple. A funky break allowed Bishop to lay down a melodic solo. “Skull of Geronimo,” with its languid lead on guitar, inflective vocals, and ferocious chorus, showed that Crobot can expertly craft vivacious Heavy Metal with catchy, Pop sensibilities. Straight head-banger “Welcome to Fat City” featured spiraling riffs throughout and an ear-splitting solo.
Keeping the floor rocking, “Night of the Sacrifice” came on with its darting guitars and haunting backing vocals, evoked Roth-era Van Halen, but with a much heavier slant. “The Necromancer” found Crobot laying down Blues laced Heavy Metal with heavy doses of harmonica, an unholy amount of cymbal crashes, and menacing, growling vocals. Set closer “Fly on the Wall” left the crowd screaming for more. Perfectly personifying Crobot’s sound, the track was heavy on feedback, imposing, yet melodic vocals, and booming bass and drums. Those who are still not familiar with this band who are looking for from-the-heart Heavy Metal sprinkled with Hard Rock, Blues, and a touch of Doom, Crobot is the answer.
In tribute to the recently departed Lemmy, between acts, the PA played nothing but Motörhead all night. As the last Motorhead song faded out, per their long-standing tradition, when the lights went down, Clutch had Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers “We Need Some Money” blasting over the speakers. The devoted fan base, for whom this was most certainly not their first Clutch show, bopped along anxiously anticipating the band taking the stage. As the lights came on and the quartet took the stage, the crowd erupted.
Getting right into the heavy, “The House That Peterbilt,” from 1995’s self-titled release, kicked off what would be a ninety minute set of pure Rock fury. A rapid-fire blast on snare from Gaster was overtaken by a thick, chugging riff from Sult. Fallon then jumped in with his best growl, singing about a crazed truck driver crossing America letting the people know, “I’ve seen it all/and I know where you live.” The unabashedly raw and heavy sound epitomized Clutch’s early recordings. Up next was “The Mob Goes Wild.” Here, Clutch showed off their penchant for clever juxtaposition as the song moved along with a bouncy, jovial groove and an undeniable chorus, all the while highlighting the horrors of modern day war.
The band’s latest release, 2015’s Psychic Warfare, picks up right where their previous release, 2013’s Earth Rocker, left off, as it is full of propulsive, upbeat, no frills Rock-n-Roll. “X-Ray Visions” and “Firebirds” from Psychic Warfare were next. “X-Ray Visions” cruised along at the speed of light with Fallon moving around the stage and inciting the crowd like a possessed preacher at a tent revival as he bellowed, “Telekinetic! Dynamite! Psychic warfare is real!” while Gaster pounded 1-2’s on the snare and crash cymbal. This spilled right into “Firebirds,” another blistering Rock-n-Roll number replete with a stinging solo from Sult. “Crucial Velocity” from Earth Rocker and with an escalating, subdued intro, if even for a moment, the band was allowed to catch their collective breath. The down time was brief and the song took off at high speed before falling back into a funky groove, and then rocketing off again.
Reaching back to 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodus, “Burning Beard,” with its seemingly cryptic lyrics and frenetic guitars, was an exercise in Clutch’s genius. Expertly crafted riffing, wah-wah drenched solos, pounding bass, and drums that were simultaneously all over the place and holding it all down laid the foundation for lyrics that on the surface seem like a mish-mash of Pop culture references, world history, and biblical studies, but when taken as a whole are a spirited condemnation of society in general. At this point, Fallon addressed the crowd, explaining that before they had lyrics for the next song, the working title was “Motorhead.” He then expressed the band’s eternal gratefulness for having done two tours with Motörhead and dedicated the song, “Noble Savage,” to the late Lemmy Kilmister. It was easy to see why the working title was “Motorhead” as Clutch took their turn at Punk Metal, with thumping bass, a downright snarling, obnoxious riff, and wild drumming as Fallon confessed to being an “Unapologetic lifer for Rock-n-Roll.”
Fallon then picked up a guitar for “A Quick Death in Texas” as he laid down a Country-fried Blues groove backed by a funky rhythm. Throughout the song, Sult laid down Blues lick after Blues lick as Gaster and Maines held the fort down with a simple, classic groove. A break midway through allowed Gaster to pound the cowbell as the guitars came front and center, oozing the Blues. A sly nod was given to a band that has clearly influenced Clutch as Fallon sang, “Please forgive me Mr. Gibbons,” a wink to ZZ Top’s legendary guitarist. The Country boogie roared on as “Our Lady of Electric Light,” with its thick, feedback heavy, slowed down riff, echoed throughout the arena. Dreamy guitars played over the sludgy din as the lyrics were delivered and brought to mind deserted streets, tumbleweeds, and outlaws. An atmospheric, harrowing feeling emanated from the stage as the band took power balladry to psychotic depths.
The pace picked right back up with “Cypress Grove,” a good time rocker with a Classic Rock riff, upbeat melody, and sing along lyrics. Before the last verse, the band stretched out for an extended, down home jam. “Son of Virginia” was a great display of Clutch’s appreciation, adulation of history, and fascination with mysticism. Over droning guitars, Fallon sang of talking dogs, All Saints Day, sarcophaguses, genealogy, and living in an age of wonder. The sound went from bluesy, to ethereal, to downright doomy, making it clear that Clutch can play any style, and play it well.
Finally there was set closer “Gravel Road,” which was a stomping electric Blues number that could be mistaken for a lost Cream or Led Zeppelin track. Originally recorded in 1966 by Mississippi Fred McDowell on acoustic slide guitar, Clutch’s version featured wailing electric guitar before closing with a manic outro soaked in sinister Blues. After a brief exit, the band returned for a two song encore. The first song, from Earth Rocker, “D.C. Sound Attack,” opened with an upbeat melody and riffing on harmonica. Again, the band took a swipe at the war machine as Fallon yelled out, “Naturally no sympathizer/I’m a war monger baby………./Trouble I love/Peace I do despise……./I got blood in my eyes……../D.C. Sound Attack………/Drop the bomb!” For this rendition, the band incorporated an extended jam in the middle with Fallon going crazy on the cowbell while Sult darted in and out of the rhythm with well-timed injections. Closing the show just as they opened it, the title track from Earth Rocker clocked in at a seemingly impossible pace. A song with a relentless riff, propulsive bass and drums, and lyrics about rocking out on stage with unrivaled bravado was the perfect summation of the night and Clutch’s career thus far.
Correctly recognized as one of Rock-n-Roll’s best live bands, a Clutch show always delivers everything one would expect and then some. Their show at Terminal 5 was no different. Contemporary music’s best rhythm section (J.P. Gaster on drums and Dan Maines on bass) kept the pocket tight all night, while the man who deftly blends thunder and melody on guitar like no other (Tim Sult) delivered countless crushing riffs, vibrant solos, and Rock’s most creative, inventive, and intelligent lyrics, not to mention an ace showman, emitted boundless energy from the stage, and made for a night the crowd will never forget, certainly leaving them anxiously awaiting Clutch’s next show.