It was a sidewaves Bonanza in Melbourne on Thursday night. The streets were riddled with St Kilda Twilight market attendees, Richie Sambora fans lining up around the corner of the Espy and of course the Clutch crowd, a crowd in which this particular reviewer was completely unfamiliar with. So for that, this review will be done a little different than the usual review I do. Rather than pretend I know Clutch and their music, knowing full well I wouldn’t know any of the songs, I’m going to review this band and their show completely unbiasedly, in a story format and with a splash of humor (and some motor vehicle puns).
After spending an eternity trying to find a park, not realising the excessive amounts of festivities that were sprawling all over the Esplanade that night, I finally found a park next to Luna Park and headed up to The Prince Band Room. Strangely, this was the first time I had ever been there. I clumsily walked into the wrong room. An acoustic act was playing to about 30-40 people, not the kind of turn out I was expecting. Scratching my head in confusion, I knew I couldn’t have been in the right place. Amateur hour. Once I had realised my mistake I asked the bartender “which way to the Clutch show my good sir” to which he replied, “Why it is upstairs young chap. Out the door and around to the right.”
A stressful start to the night, but it was finally time to kick back and enjoy the second half of Don Fernando’s set. This band I was familiar with. Don Fernando seemed to be a perfect fit for Clutch fans. Many were content on just grabbing a beer, casually conversing and occasionally turning their heads to the front of stage to give a head bop motion. The room may have seemed a tad empty at the start of their set, but towards the end the Clutch crowd waltzed in and gave Don a subtle head bop seal of approval.
Sassy and groovy groove tunes pumped out the PA moments before Clutch clamored on stage, to a massive eruption of applause. Sold out show? Yes indeedy. Singer and seemingly multi-talented musician, Neil Fallon, was highly appreciative of the sold out Melbourne crowd. An ocean of phone cameras captured the live performance for viewing at a later date, most of which can probably be viewed on YouTube right now.
Clutch fans may have kept it in first for a while, but it seemed as if the crowd’s applause was growing longer and louder after each song. Most evident of which was after Fallon brought out the all important cowbell and got one of the biggest rounds of applause of the whole night. Them cowbells eh? Neil Fallon whipped out a guitar of his own shortly after this and sunk some soothing melodies with a tint of dark mesmerising green lighting. Something else of note was the apparent minimal use of toms used by drummer Jean-Paul Gaster, which enabled the crowd to view his characterising bashing of things.
Clutch continued to pummel forth in fifth before eventually easing off into a mid-paced third gear song, then leaving themselves in neutral to roll gently down the road of musicality. With a hefty set of 90 minutes Clutch were able to whip out all the stops for fans. Standing next to the mixing desk had its perks too as I was able get my hands on the setlist, in order to verify what I was listening to. “The Regulator” was a highlight, as was “The Wolfman”, one of the last tracks of the night. I felt both of these songs stuck out as they showcased the bands capabilities and diversity the most, as well as simply being some of the most enjoyable tracks of the night.
Whilst not a Clutch fan at the beginning of the night, there is now a good chance I’ll be seeing them again in the future, with a solid knowledge of their back catalog, and possibly a Clutch shirt in place of the Psycroptic “Worship The Devil: Tasmanian Death Metal” shirt I had on, which seemed to confuse some patrons. One which asked me, “Who the hell plays death metal in Tasmania?!”. Duly noted Clutch fan #122.