Clutch/The Sword Live @ TJ's, Newport (UK) - 13th April 2007

Since April 2nd of 2007, Wales has become a smoke free country in public places like restaurants and more importantly concert venues. So tonight was going to be my first foray into this brave new world of gig watching, possibly without the aid of my trusty companion for many years Mr Ven Tolin.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with TJ's, it is a really old school shithole of a venue resembling the inside of a cave (I kid you not). It has played host to everyone from the sadly deceased "Joe Strummer" to the sadly not deceased "Courtney Love" and is also home to local legend and venue owner Mr Johnny Sicco (like Wales' version of Hilly Krystal).

Johnny is a true old school businessman and as such likes to keep the heating on all year round just to ensure none of us gig goers get a chill in his venue and tonight without the smoke in a rammed full venue, it was actually just possible to stand 90 minutes without wanting to die.

With the images of caves and hotter than hell venues it is rather apt to introduce "The Sword". This US four piece play Heavy Metal in a very straight format. Straight that is, in the sense of "straight out of the Black Sabbath back catalogue". Tracks from their recent album "Age of Winters" very quickly gets the assembled throng's heads banging like a row of Churchill dogs travelling on a bumpy road. "The Sword" hail from Austin Texas, have riffs of epic (think wide screen doom here) like proportions, and the guitarist/singer plays a BC Rich guitar. Need I say anymore?

"Clutch" on the other hand you could write about for weeks and still possibly not get to the core of what makes this band so much of an event. Lets get one thing straight from the start "Clutch" look like 5 painter decorators. In fact tonight it strikes me that singer "Neil Fallon" cuts a striking resemblance to Dirty Sanchez snoring drunk "Pancho". But put these guys on a stage and let "Mr Fallon" wind up his oh so soulful vocal chords and the image doesn't really matter that much at all anymore.

As the ninety-minute set unfolded I couldn't help but notice the very broad cross section of fans "Clutch" have with shirts on display ranging from "Black Flag" to "Lynyrd Skynyrd" and that comes just about as close as you can get to describing the music they play.
For me however two other reference points kept springing to mind and those were "MC5" and "ZZ Top".

Through "Mice and Gods" to new tracks like "Electric Worry" and "Devil and Me" this certainly rings true with "Clutch" sounding like a wired for (70's) sound soul/blues troop rather than the angst ridden band their were at their inception.

There was a tendency to fall in to "Black Crowes/Zappa" like jams at certain places in the set, but tracks like "Burning Beard" and "Mob Goes Wild" soon made you forget these little self-indulgences.

So for those reading this thinking "what the hell is this guy reviewing this for Glitzine?"

I'd ask you to think of a band as vital live as a noughties version of "The Sonic Rendezvous Band" with a Gen X version of "Billy Gibbons" on lead vocals and you're not far from discovering the hidden musical gem that is "Clutch". Albeit that the nights experience was made all the more pleasurable by not having to breath other peoples second-hand smoke.

by Johnny H.