Concert Review: Clutch, September 2009

Clutch at Phoenix Concert Hall – Toronto

They call this pose 'the wall of defiance'.

September 16, 2009


by Aaron Binder
Photography from Clutch publicist

The definition of dirty is debatable, as is the definition of jam.  Combine the two and you get the classic dirtyjam, a term that digs deep into the reaches of the human skull, pulls out the eardrums, the cochlea, the saccule; places them on a concrete block, then proceeds to drop the equivalent weight of the residents of Oregon directly on top of your exposed organ.

The result is nothing short of what it feels like to listen to a Clutch album with volume cranked, windows down, and lungs screaming.  Surprisingly enough, the same phonetic intonation of dirtyjam is a term of endearment used by the Endrugi Warriors of the island nation Raponagi; right before eating the hearts of their vanquished foes in their cultures ultimate sign of respect.

This leads one to believe that the Clutch live show is not just a Hell-ton of insanity, but pushing the human body to its limit physically and mentally.  Some would say that showing up to a Clutch concert is grounds enough for permanent confinement to the crazy ward, but those types of people are the kind that would lead you to believe Bobby Vee or Taylor Swift are conduits to the destructive life.  They also said your mother was a terrible person for giving you sugar on a school day.

Regardless, when Clutch comes a-knockin’, the only choice is to go a-rockin’.

With their ninth full-length album released on July 14th, they started working a golden path back to the harder, nastier side of music; this not only impressed fans but wowed critics in the ultimate show of versatility.  Clutch has been one of rock music’s most acclaimed, cult-status bands since almost their inception in 1990.  Since that time they’ve built up a following that has turned them into a regular on the tour circuit.  Their repertoire is large, their music big, their fans…bearded and tattooed, their live show…

Their live show is certainly interesting.  Clutch has been called one of the ultimate stoner bands for their core jammy style and that is exactly how they started out.  Lead singer, writhing around on stage like a wisp of cobra-like smoke.  Facial expressions were ablaze with years of mental debauchery.

While it isn’t the most high-strung show, you wouldn’t find any big jumps or flying kicks, the small little expressions and body movements kept interest and intrigue high.  It’s not so much about high energy as the good vibration that blasted from the thumping bass, the cool, controlled drumming, the jammy, solo-laden guitar parts, and one of the gruffest voices in rock music today.

One can’t expect much out of the Phoenix Concert Hall as anything goes, really. The lighting system is basic, the stage is small, and the walls have probably been cleaned once in their existence, when the previous tenants moved out.  All things considered though, it is the perfect place to see a band like Clutch.  Seeing them play at a crisp, clean venue just wouldn’t seem appropriate.

Even with the basic setup, they spanked out the tunes at a staggeringly high, slaphappy parent ratio.  The repertoire that they brought to stage was quite extensive, ranging from the beginning of their career right up to their current ninth release, although they did tend to favour some of their more drawn-out, groovy tunes.

As they meandered their way through a rather solid set of music, the mood of the crowd stayed the same.  Heads bobbed to the beat (some better than others), fights that looked as though they were going to break out mellowed to the jam and smoke of a seemingly popular, mind-altering substance known to enhance this style of music, and the black-shirted mass continued to proffer cheers of elated joy and adoration.


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