O2 Academy Brixton, London 21/12/2018 KKK
Maryland blues-rockers struggle to get into the groove in London
■ It’s very pleasing that Clutch can pack out a venue as big as Brixton Academy, and between crowd and band there’s enough beard oil under one roof to constitute a possible fire hazard. “Let’s have a party!” cheers man-mountain singer Neil Fallon. And you really want to, but despite his goodwill and all the hirsute faces, tonight’s set sadly never truly ignites.
Given how many great songs Clutch have, it’s now inevitable that not all of the fan favourites will get an airing – tonight there’s no The Soapmakers, A Shogun Named Marcus or The Mob Goes Wild, to name three – but there’s another problem: despite the demand for tickets, this grand venue feels too cavernous for their concoction of wild rhythms and gonzo lyrics. Mice And Gods doesn’t soar high enough to touch the domed ceiling, 50,000 Unstoppable Watts echoes rather than electrifies, and Pure Rock Fury can’t peel the paint off the Grade Ii-listed features. Mid-set plodders Big News I and The House That Peterbilt, meanwhile, compound the funk that hangs in the air at times, along with the pot smoke.
Being Clutch, there are moments of brilliance, though: X-ray Visions’ mid-song introduction of each band member by their star sign is genius, The Regulator rejuvenates the latter half of their set as it swaggers with intent, and Electric Worry is always a barn burner that you could light a firework off, all stop-start mosey and rolling thunder rhythms.
Signing off with a song from their latest album, Book Of Bad Decisions, proves to be prophetic, though. How To Shake Hands plays to increasing pockets of space as some factions of the crowd opt for an earlier tube home. Tonight, the mob goes
mild, unfortunately. ALI STAIR LAWRENCE