Clutch (O2 Guildhall Southampton, 17/12/19)

This show was going to be the seventh time that I saw Clutch, making them the band I had seen more than any other, tied at the time with Muse. Bear in mind, I used to be a huge Muse fan, and I was only at some of those shows because of either they were at festivals that I already intended to go to. So, the killer question – should I not be sick of them by now?

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First on were heavy blues rock trio Kamchatka. Given that one member was former Opeth keyboardist Per Wiberg, their power was hardly surprising. Frontman Thomas Anderson’s guitar solos were especially intense, focused and epic in length, extending over five minutes in length. The set closed with an early guest appearance from Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. He and two Kamchatka members had collaborated in 2005 on a project called King Hobo, and together they performed namesake track ‘Hobo Ride’.

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King Hobo’s semi-reunion

Graveyard were equally intense, but with a wave of dark psychedelia screeching through. Their most recent album Peace topped the charts in their native Sweden. I really wish we had a similar taste here in the UK. At the same time that they were at number one, Lewis Capaldi was busy being adorably drearier atop the UK charts.

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Graveyard (unsurprisingly difficult to capture on camera)

So, onto Clutch. The set itself was an odd concoction, with a very decisive split between their best-known recent tracks (‘X-Ray Visions’, ‘In Walks Barbarella’ and of course, the mob went wild to ‘The Mob Goes Wild’), and peculiar rarities. For example, we heard the wonderfully named ‘Spleen Merchant’ being performed for the first time in seven years. Although their sets are always unpredictable, this was a format that I hadn’t seen from them before.

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By my own experience, that is especially odd for Clutch, because they have a habit of staying very faithful to their latest album. When I saw them on their Psychic Warfare tour 2015, they performed eleven tracks from Psychic Warfare, and half of the remaining tracks on the set were from the previous album Earth Rocker, rather than just a spattering of their best known tracks, as many other bands would have done.

It was definitely in preparation for three shows that they were performing in the US a few weeks later, where they said that they would be playing 54 different songs, including a start-to-finish performance of Blast Tyrant on the final night. I am outstandingly jealous of anybody who is going to be there. Did this mean that they would pull out some of my favourites from yester-decade?

There was one thing in particular that especially grabbed my attention, and that was a keyboard. Keyboardist Mick Schauer left the band back in 2008, and sadly passed away earlier in 2019 which meant that some of my favourite tracks that I had seen when I first saw them support CKY in 2005, and at their own show for the first time in 2007, had been dropped from their setlists, except for in very special circumstances.

Which songs would Per Wiberg return to play?

One such song was their 2005 track ‘10001110101’. It dawned on me straight away. No one had touched that keyboard all night. It must be for something. Could they really pull that one out of the bag? You bet they did, and I went berserk. Kamchatka had returned to help out and after twelve years, I never thought that I would get to witness that again. I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to hear a particular song performed.

So, back to the opening question – will I be seeing them again? Of course. They were amazing, and Neil Fallon screamed hard and loud enough that I almost grown a beard by the end. In 2020, they are extending a strange courtesy to the UK by playing at Ramblin’ Man Fair and they’ll be playing there three times, with a completely differently styled set on each day. I’m very excited, even if my wallet isn’t.

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