Mon 16th January 2006
Support from Stinking Lizeveta
So, first gig of the year and we make the drive to Cardiff and despite not having the faintest idea how one actually get's to Cardiff Bay, find the gig in decent time. As we pull up the queue's fucking silly and as it's freezing out we meet everyone in the pub just round the corner with no real rush and then amble into the gig probably about half way through the opening set.
Now I for one have never even heard of openers Stinking Lizaveta before so have no idea what to expect but three near-fifty year olds including a phenomenally talented female drummer playing crazy Zappa/Hendrix style rock like it's doom as if their very lives depended on it certainly took me by surprise, I can tell you. The songs are all about ten minutes long and it's just mad, mad virtuosic instrumentalism from three people who clearly live their lives for this, played at full pelt start to finish with the three of them showing more life and passion than most bands half their age ever manage. Jaw droppingly brilliant and definately well worth getting there early for though I would have to say that the highlight of their set was in fact the end of it as the guitarist hops off stage and grinds his guitar on the railings for feedback before giving his guitar over to a guy in the crowd. The guitar gets passed around a few blokes who bang it on stuff to make noise before it gets passed to Adam (one of our party and lead guitarist in Swansea's own Suns of Thunder, 'Last of the High Rollers' album to be released immenently) who after a seconds deliberation straps it on and flies off into a fully fledged piece of axe heroism that not only fits in with what the Stinking Lizaveta guitarist had been playing but also (arguably) improves on it for a good five minutes. Sensational stuff and easily one of the coolest things I've seen at a gig in many a year!
Now don't get me wrong, but I have to say this... it may well say Corrosion of Conformity at the top of the ticket and there are indeed an awful lot of CoC tshirts to be seen around the place but this is Wales and this is a stoner gig which means that, by default, it's Clutch's crowd.
From the second our heroes get on stage you can see they're ready for this. Clutch are arguably one of the only American bands I'm aware of who always play Wales every tour and tonight's extravaganza is the opening night of said tour and as they launch into 'Robot Hive/Exodus' opener 'The Incomparable Mr. Flannery' it dawns on me that even though I have somewhat dismissed that album as a bit of a dissappointment compared to the previous three and have probably only bothered to listen to it about twenty times I'm still word perfect on almost all the songs they play tonight from it! The Marylanders themselves are nowhere near as stoned as the last time I saw them and it's all guns blazing as they do their timelessly glorious, glorious thing. As usual the set list is a perfect balance of old classics and new pretenders and the level of quality material is simply staggering, not once are they dull or pedestrian with narry a beat missed nor heart and soul not poured into every line, helped in no small way by the genuinely superb job done by the sound engineer giving a near album perfect sheen of quality to the already wonderful noise these southern gents are producing. The crowd response as the boys storm through such musical wonders as 'Pure Rock Fury', 'Mice and Gods', and the ever popular 'The Mob Goes Wild' is as rabid as ever and the handful of emos and general teenagers scattered around the place all clearly shit themselves as they realise they're the only ones in the room who don't know EVERY SINGLE WORD and there is much fun and dancing had by all. The set is a good length and ends with an extended 'Cyprus Grove', the now almost expected (but none the less brain meltingingly good) 'Big News I and II' medly/jamfest and all topped off with a blistering rendition of 'Elephant Riders' and the Neil Fallon-slide guitar-tastic 'Gravel Road'. As Fallon thanks the crowd and moves off stage the crowd is near orgasm and you can hear the sentence "CoC better do something impressive to beat that!" from more than one set of lips as you move around the hall.
Now as I've said already, playing after Clutch is an inenviable position to be in at the best of times so Corrosion Of Conformity always stood a chance of being, at least to some degree, a slight dissappointment and this is not much helped from my point of view as I will always have a serious problem with this band, namely: 'Deliverance'.
Now I love most stuff I've heard by CoC but I can't get past the fact that more or less every album they've released has had at least four or five songs in the middle that you can happily skip without missing too much. Every album... except 'Deliverance', that is. That album, on the other hand sits oh so very comfortably within the warm bosom of my top ten albums of all time and is, in my opinion, damn near perfect from top to tail. As a result, CoC suffered from playing a very 'In The Arms Of God' heavy set despite clearly knowing that's not necessarily why people were there, Pepper himself commenting "C'mon motherfuckers, I know you all know the words to this one" for both the magnificent 'Albatross' and the rather unnecessarily extended 'Clean My Wounds' which featured a good ten minute and somewhat self indulgent jam. Now bearing in mind how punchy a song it is I really can't see why they thought that was an appropriate juncture to noodle and after how effortless these breaks felt in both Clutch's and Stinking Lizeveta's sets it felt rather pained in the midst of an otherwise face melting classic such as this. None the less they throw themselves into it with true grit and although everyone's clearly still reeling from the Clutch experience they get a respectable enough pit going throughout the majority of the set. There is a lot of support shown when Pepper briefly begins to discuss New Orleans and CoC are obviously also very happy to be back in the UK after such an extended leave of absence but I just couldn't shake the feeling of disappointment as, marvelously chuggy as it was, most of the set feels a little stunted and samey and certainly not helping this is the fact that the sound is nowhere near as good as Clutch's with Peppers beautifully soulfull (and utterly underated) voice totally mired in a barrage of unnecessary effects. Don't get me wrong, it's not that CoC were bad, they just weren't Clutch and despite all my griping are still excellent and finish the night with encores of '13 Angels' and the huge 'In The Arms Of God' title track, then the lights are on and it's time to leave.
All in all despite some ups and downs, about as much fun as you can have in a huge hall full of people with their clothes on...