I had just sat through three opening bands. I had just to wait an interminable amount of time between the last band and the band I paid to see. I had worked fourteen hours the day before, slept for five, then worked nine more before coming to the venue. I hadn't eaten in nine and a half hours. I was in no mood for bullshit.
After three cuts from “Strange Cousins of the West,” Neil Fallon approached the microphone, and not allowing for suspense, stated simply that Clutch was going to play two more new ones…and then the entire self-titles album.
So what followed was the entirety of Clutch's eponymous album, from one end to the other. Now, I like that album. I do. Honest. But against the balance of Clutch's entire catalog, there are things I would rather hear.
I loathe the current trend among musicians who have decided that the best course for their live show is to play one album from start to finish. I have seen this before (Iron Maiden: "Matter of Life and Death,") and it can be remarkably awful. There are few albums that I, or any music fan, enjoy all of. "Back in Black" and "Peace Sells..." come to mind, and right now that's all I can come up with.
There were enough good times to be had in the first half of that album, as "Big News I" played in to "Big News II," "Rock and Roll Outlaw," so on and so forth. In the back of my head, there was one song I was guaranteed to hear that could have saved the whole show. I hadn't seen Clutch play "Animal Farm" in a little over five years, since the "Blast Tyrant" tour. It had been woefully absent from their set list for half a decade, and yet was the hallmark of so much of their early career.
And they played it flat. The song requires a certain unbridled passion to play effectively, and Neil Fallon didn't (maybe doesn't?) have it. It was a disappointment of the highest order, as they looked like a band going through the motions of a song they didn't really want to play.
After that, I mentally ran through the rest of the album. There was no great songs left to be played, and I didn't feel like sitting through a probable long jamming session for the last three tracks. I did something then that I never thought I would have to do at a Clutch show. I walked away.
Clutch, you make me shake my head. Less than a week ago, I declared one of your albums the best album of the decade. As the recent years have worn on, you have turned yourself into a less fiery beast, catering to a different audience and a different persona. Have the years of constant, non-stop touring, so admirable in their time, worn you down? Has a lack of the recognition you so deserved dulled your resolve?
Next time, I'll check the set list from someone else who's seen the tour before I buy a ticket.
Side note: The Doomriders opened, and didn’t blow me away, but weren’t bad. There’s potential there.