Opener ‘X-Ray Visions’ is an answer to a detective, asking what happened in a motel. On the album it might be an insane reply, but live at the sold out O2 Academy Bristol, Neil Fallon has risen from an irritable believer in the paranormal, to delivering a ninety-minute sermon devoted to almost the entirety of latest album Psychic Warfare, on how “psychic warfare is real, you’d better believe me brother”. Within two minutes, all band members are introduced brutally in a verse by their star sign (with Reverend Fallon blessed with the fitting sting of being arguably the most furious to fit his scream and growl perfectly – “SCORPIOOOO!”), and it is non-stop fury from here on in.
Really. ‘Sermon’ or ‘gospel’ (just not in the style that one would imagine) might not be an exaggeration, as Fallon’s mannerisms onstage, waving into the crowd, and seeming to cast demonic spells on everybody with each evil cackle during ode to pleasure from hard rock party, and spirited ambivalence towards fame, ‘Earth Rocker’. This only ascends with the rapid introduction of new track ‘Noble Savage’, during which in a fittingly noble and savage way are completely lyrically literal, taking their hard rock high ground, and inviting fans along, due to devout status as being an “unapologetic lifer for rock and roll”. This is all while band members are in deep concentration – almost under hypnosis (‘psychic warfare’ if you wish) – Fallon charismatically emphasizes with pointing, sarcastic grins and overactive suave eyebrows, as though putting down anybody unsure of whether being able to rock so hard, functions as a career.
Tonight’s scale shows that Clutch’s brand of alternative, almost playful (“Is that a Pringles can? He knows how to get ready to party.”) groovy funk metal, deserves every inch on their CVs. If not, a cowbell and astonishingly angry harmonica solo during ‘D.C. Sound Attack’, followed later by ‘The Mob Goes Wild’, is a rapid hammer to the job centre clerk who has the nerve to disagree. If all 1,600 in attendance aren’t decided yet upon aliens and the Illuminati, the sheer volume and power makes sure that they will at least be decided on the reality of sonic warfare, and will have chosen to whose side they are on. Clutch Cavalry – Assemble!