I made the trip to Toronto last Wednesday to see the greatest band ever, live in concert. Oh yes. I'm talkin' about Clutch! They played at the Phoenix. I had never seen a show there. It's quite the place. I'm used to seeing shows in small clubs/bars. And I'm usually right up at the front so sound quality goes right out the window. So, I was really impressed with the sound at the Phoenix. I could listen to each component. I could distinguish each guitar from the other, the bass from them both. It was a nice change. Don't get me wrong, I love small clubs. But with a band like Clutch, it's not about screaming or headbanging or moshing or being as loud as (in)humanly possible. At a Clutch show, it's about the experience. A religious experience. And Neil Fallon is the preacher. The stage his pulpit. Guitarist Tim Sult and bassist Dan Maines, while being absolutely amazing, are pretty much glued to the floor. Drummer J.P. Gaster (who pulled double duty with Wino) is a spectacle unto himself. Watching him play is fun! Between his facial expressions, his bouncing around on the stool and his unique beats, he'd be worth the ticket price alone. Back to Neil. He's probably the best frontman I have ever seen. (Phil Anselmo may be the other) He has such a conviction. An energy that is hard to describe. He is one with the words. He can look you in the eye and you will believe whatever comes out of his mouth.
One of the best things about seeing Clutch live is you never really know what to expect. They change the setlist up every night. So if I had the extreme pleasure of catching more than one date on a tour, it would be a like a whole new experience. Even better than that are the jams. Oh the jams! The Clutch boys have such an incredible sense of each other. They are locked in. It's like they can read each others minds. They can slip into a jam and carry it out for 5, 10, 15 minutes and be so far away from where they started and WHAM! Right back into the song. Perfectly. And it's not just the bass and drums providing a beat for the guitar to do it's thing. At any given time, any instrument can be the centrepiece. It's amazing. One of these days, I'm half expecting Neil to just start rambling off lyrics improv style. They played for about an hour and 45 minutes including, I believe, a 4 song encore. You get every penny worth. None of that 45 minute set crap. I don't recall them playing anything pre-Clutch. I also don't remember anything from Jam Room or Pure Rock Fury. They might have. I'd have to check the setlist. They played a good chunk off the new record, Strange Cousins From the West. No "Spacegrass", no "Escape From the Prison Planet", no "Dragonfly" but you can't have everything. If I had anything bad to say about the show it would be the occasional echo effect on Neil's mic. I don't know if it was just the acoustics of the building or if it was a bad effect, but it didn't sound very good. They used some weird effect during "The Yeti" during the "...time is of the essence..." parts. It didn't fit at all. It wasn't even close to the album sound. Instead of it sounding like someone talking farther from the mic it sounded like someone talking underwater. I don't who's idea it was, but it was a bad idea. Relatively minor complaints, I guess.
So basically, what I'm trying to say is, Clutch were, are and always will be, the best live band you will ever see. (Best recorded band too. Just the best. Ever. Believe it.)
In case you were wondering about support acts, I have a few words for them too. Circumstances prevented me from seeing opener, Lionize. I'm not hearbroken that I didn't get to see them. But I would have liked to. They sounded kinda trippy from what little I heard online. And I was in a trippy mood. (wink wink) I did see/hear most of Wino's set though. By that point in the day I hadn't eaten in almost 12 hours. ( I just plum forgot. Too excited) So that signature Scott "Wino" Weinrich tone and it's subsequent low-frequency resonance was doing funny things to my stomach. I had to step away for a few minutes and then stand in a ridiculously long and slow moving line to get some $3 water. I was concentrating more on the line and the loudmouthed idiot in front of me than the band. What I did see though was pretty good. Performance wise it was kind of sub-standard. They didn't move that much. The music was great but it wasn't so much a "show" as a listening party. Plus, they had J.P. on the kit so that was like an extra bonus. I'm a big fan of all of Wino's work so I would like to see them again. On a full stomach.
Below is the shirt I bought. Sweet.