Clutch Bierkeller, Bristol, 22/05/2005

Tue 24th May 2005

Support from Five Horse Johnson, Taint


Tonight was many things, the first thing (for me at least) was closure.

Until now I've successfully failed to see Taint support Clutch twice; once three years ago when Clutch played Swansea but turned up too late for Taint to open and then again about a year later when they played in TJ's at Newport but the trains don't run after 10.30 because the Welsh like to get drunk and fight each other at the weekends so we couldn't've got back after the show.

So after all this time we finally got Taint and Clutch on the same stage, TAINT were as brilliant and focused as ever but played a ridiculously short half hour set (Jimbob would tell us later that they actually overran by a good ten minutes as well!) finishing with the exceptional twin barrells of 'I'm Going to Kill Henry Ford' and 'I Fulfil I'. the more I see this band the more I realise how incredibly singular Jimbob's vision of where the band should be is. It really is difficult to make a connection to another band around at the moment moving within the post-hardcore scene that is handling the material in a similar fashion. Great stuff, but we knew that before they had even started playing.

FIVE HORSE JONSON were a blank canvas to me before this as, despite hearing many a good word, I'd never had an opportunity to hear any of their stuff. Tight, fun loving and with a fantastic piece of near virtuoso harmonica, they casually straddle the musical middle ground between Sixty Watt Shaman's straight ahead rawk and the more booty shakin', sometimes near-gospel, Black Crowes end of the Southern Rock spectrum and were very well received. There was, however, one small problem: they aren't Clutch.

After Taint, who's technical ferocity bares little resemblance to the headliners musically, and before the New World Samurai's themselves, a good ol' bog standard Southern Rock band like 5HJ were only ever going to be very enjoyable filler before the main event. My foot was tapping and my head was nodding all the way through the set but I still couldn't help thinking that they should just do a Tim from Spaced and "Skip to the end...!". Considering how long their set was as well I think Taint could have played another song or two without cutting into their time all that much. Still, just minor line-up preference grumbles against an otherwise thoroughly solid performance.

And then CLUTCH came on, firing straight into 'Blast Tyrant's opening gambit of 'Mercury' and 'Profits Of Doom'. Immediately several hundred people were bouncing up and down, nodding their heads and singing along, word perfect to a man (or indeed, woman, as the ladies were also in strong numbers). It goes to show how much this band have played these songs live and their confidence in themselves and their fans that a guaranteed crowd pleaser like 'Texan Book Of The Dead' with it's utter gibberish and yet still massively sing along (even by Clutch standards) chorus can be frittered away on the third song of the show and no-one be even remotely dissappointed.

Tearing through one of the most wonderful back catalogues in rock (they didn't even bother to stop in between several of the songs for us to cheer!) the set was one triumph followed by another. 'Pure Rock Fury', 'Mob Goes Wild', 'Cypress Grove' and 'A Shogun Named Marcus' were all present and correct within the first half of the set before the boys from Maryland started breaking out the slower, more jam friendly songs in the second half. 'Ghost', 'Big News I & II' and, most notably, set closer 'Escape From The Prison Planet' all received the jam treatment, several of which spanning over twenty minutes.

The truly wonderful part of all of this being that at no point were they showing off. Unlike other bands that have a tendency to do this sort of thing to prove a point, Clutch clearly jam simply because they love their music and play it an awful lot so need to keep it fresh. It's easily a testament to their prowess that I couldn't remember 'til just before getting back to Swansea at half two this morning that the last song was 'Escape From...' because the jam was so long and free flowing I'd completely forgotten in the mean time.

Only two complaints can be levelled at the Clutch live experience and neither is their own fault - (1) the vocals were far too quiet for most of the set and (2) it ended.

Special mention should also go to a certain JP Gaster for the drumming perfection that he was displaying for both Clutch and 5HJ!

I've been looking forward to this gig for well over a month now, bouncing up and down with excitement like a child on Christmas Eve and I certainly wasn't dissappointed. I just really hope I don't have to wait another three years to see them again, now is all...


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