Live Review: Clutch @ O2 Brixton Academy, London (12/12/15)


The opportunity to see Clutch headline London’s O2 Brixton Acadamy came by chance. Originally scheduled to take place at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, the venue was changed at the last minute (structural issues). Having been sold out at the much smaller Shepherd’s Bush Empire tickets were put back sale in the hope of filling out Brixton a bit more but as evident on arrival, not many fans took up the chance.

There is something evidently off-putting about a half-full Brixton Acadamy. Sure you’ve got more room to move around & get a better view but it just leaves it feeling empty & cavernous.

Still, this would be the only time fans would be likely to actually see Clutch headline a venue of this size. The excellent new album, Psychic Warfare is their 11th & a lot of this set is drawn from that album.

The crowd noise is immense thoughout as the lights drop & the intro ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out’ rings out. You wouldn’t know it was a half-full venue from the sound of everyone singing along. The band hit the stage & go straight into the opener from the new album, X-Ray Visions…and this is where it starts going downhill.

You see, the emptiness of the venue leaves everything sounding like it has an echo. It seems as if an attempt to fill these vacuums involved turning up the instruments resulting in a mess of noise at times. Neil Fallon’s impeccable vocals are drowned out on a regular basis & the fast sections of songs just see riffs disappearing into the black holes of silence.

I’ve used the word once already because it’s the best way to describe the sound…cavernous. Moving position did little to help & it didn’t improve as the show goes on.

Add that the band look dwarfed on the much larger stage, the equipment squashed into the middle, little else to impress beyond a Psychic Warfare backdrop. It’s hard to blame the band, it’s the last date of the UK run & the venue change was only confirmed 5 days before. Singer Neil Fallon’s energy on stage is infectious to watch though & he does an impressive job of keeping the crowd pumped & in full voice for most of the set.

Talking of which…as I said before the set leans heavily on the new album, with 9 of the 19 songs played coming from it. Some are better than others with a rousing rendition of Our Lady of Electric Light being the highlight (even if the poor sound dents its impact).

There are some high profile absences though, most notably Pure Rock Fury. That an additional 5 songs came from the bands 10th album, Earth Rocker seems to suggest that they are a band wanting to focus on the future rather than the past. Both Earth Rocker & Psychic Warfare have been well received so it’s understandable that the band wouldn’t want to get stuck playing the same stuff over & over again!

The encore of the double header; D.C. Sound Attack & Earth Rocker send the sparse crowd (even more sparse by time the band reached the encore) home happy enough.

Clutch, normally a band so well-known for their impeccable sound & show had a few mis-steps tonight. Sure, the venue change wasn’t their fault but part of the sound quality has to lie at their feet. When you can’t identify a riff from another because of the volume, there is a problem. When you can’t hear the vocals clearly because of muddy guitars, there is a problem. I didn’t have a huge issue with their set-list…I would have preferred to see the 9 new ones spread out a bit more but I’m all about bands working towards the future & not living on past memories however I can see why some fans may have been unhappy with three quarters of set being from the last 2 albums.

Full setlist:

Intro: Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out (Tape)
X-ray Visions
Firebirds!
Crucial Velocity
Burning Beard
Book, Saddle & Go
Noble Saddle
A Quick Death in Texas
The Soapmakers
Doom Saloon
Our Lady of Electric Light
Behold the Colossus
Unto the Breach
The Mob Goes Wild
Profits of Doom
The Regulator
Your Love is Incarceration
Son of Virginia

Encore:
D.C. Sound Attack!
Earth Rocker

Clutch @ O2 Brixton Academy, London (12/12/15)
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