Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions Tour Arrives in Bristol

Support from a pair of duo’s Inspector Cluzo and Picturebooks 

Tuesday before Christmas and for many this is the last gig of 2018, Bluesdoodles included! We always have high anticipation for every live show we go and see, tonight had an added dimension for many who travel from South Wales to Bristol going home at last will be tollfree!

With a sellout crowd the O2 Academy Bristol was packed to the rafters, stairs full and the crush turning the air hot, humid and sweaty, live music adrenalin was flowing with extreme intensity as the first of three bands filled the stage tonight. Before Clutch (USA) the main act of the night we were to see two very different duos of the guitar/drum combination The Inspector Cluzo from France and The Picturebooks from Germany.  Atruly International affair allowing everyone to suspend reality and let the power of music uplift, excite and unite us within the powerful grip of Rock.

First up were the charismatic duo from Gascony, The Inspector Cluzo, Laurent (Malcolm) Lacrouts and Mathieu (Phil) Jourdain, the rock farmers, sharing tracks from their current album We The People Of The Soil. (Why the brackets? Their names are different in brackets to reflect their Facebook personas). The show was dynamic and political. The songs and conversations reflecting the political climate and the moment pro-people, pro-environmentalism or establishment and anti-capital. Lyrics delivered with pure Rockn’ Roll verve were deep and thought provoking. The set was fun we explored, farming, soil, popular protest and Fishermen with a jazzy intermission.   Loved the irony earthy rocking set we the people of the soil with the drummer Phil dressed for a jazz session in white shirt black tie and waistcoat a true juxtaposition to the music and the earthy foil of Malcolm, vocalist-guitarist and raconteur extraordinaire! What an opening set, a new band for Bluesdoodles but will look out for you again. Great addition to any festival!

Short gap to the next duo The Picturebooks who have played Bristol a few times so not such an unknown quantity to many in the audience including Bluesdoodles. Once again the duo from Gütersloh featured booming drums of Phillipp Mirtschink and Fynn Claus Grabke the raw lead on guitar and vocals. This is heavy rock delivered with a power driver of sound that assails your eardrums. They are very loud, the drums have a primaeval rawness as they gather up beats and rhythms from the Middle East, American Indians and the essence of modern rock combined with the dirtiest of acoustic guitar sounds.  The tribal chants united the audience who revelled in the sound and mesmerized by the drumming, red-headed sticks, flashes, as his hand pounds the drums and the school bell is rung for your attention on a unique set up without a cymbal in sight. Highlights that shone out across the auditorium were the ever popular Zero Fucks Given, from Home is a Heartache, summing up many people’s feelings. The Rabbit and The Wolf also charmed the audience with a heavy loud warm-up; many will be checking them out again when they return to Bristol in 2019 for a full show at The Exchange.  We were ready for more music as the stage was cleared for Clutch.

Clutch is back on tour and this, the first UK date, a soldout show in Bristol. Tonight’s set from the quartet was the opportunity to hear songs from the album live intermingled with songs from their back catalogue dipping into seven previous albums going back to self-titled 1995 album through to 2018 release Book of Bad Decisions.

Neil Fallon, on vocals, guitar, and for the opening track, D.C. Sound Attack!, some gorgeous subtle harmonica as he tells Bristol Lets Have  A Party. No, you haven’t walked into a blues gig Clutch are a hard-hitting rock band where the song and the rhythms rule to deliver foot-stomping crowd delighting numbers.  From the word go the atmosphere was electric as we listened hoping to hear a favourite track live with that special verve never captured in the studio. The minimalist stage set up shows that when four superb musicians combine the sound is heavy, hard-hitting and full of rhythms that shape each number to ensure the tones and textures flow with interesting and beguiling variations. With his Rickenbacker bass, Dan Maines plus Jean-Paul Gaster behind his drums set the ground full of the ebbing and flowing of rhythms that mix it up, with some funky sounds, what a rhythm section that has us in the clutch of their hands. Whilst Tim Stult’s guitar work is heavy driving and full of intricate riffs and hooks. When Neil puts down the Harmonica or Cowbell and picks up his guitar the hooks fit perfectly with the bluesy sound it is this intriguing interplay as Tim navigates his riffs around the second guitar with a simplicity that catches the ear every time. The first of the seven tracks from Book of Bad Decisions, Spirit of ‘ 76 changes the tempo as the gears are shifted the ballad is uplifted live with an intensity of a performance in front of the hot and excited crowded venue.

Highlights? Every number was captivating. But that is a cop-out we all have personal favourites and I thought we would hear In Walks Barbella, which was a crowd pleaser. I was delighted when the opening bars of Emily Dickinson rolled out across the auditorium. The percussive beats are instantly recognisable the lyrics have poetic countenance on this country fuelled heavy duty bluesy southern rock number.  Burning Beard was a surprise, a welcomed one and Sucker for a Witch was spellbinding! Closing out the set we were taken back to 2004, Blast Tyrant and a perfect number to finish the night with The Mob Goes Wild. The Bristol audience was not a mob but it was full of music fuelled wildness. Live music doesn’t get better than this. We then had two more tracks from the current album as the encore. With the final number Weird Times, summing up perfectly the context of the world outside, that we now had to walk out into as the magic of music lingered on long after the last note was played.

Clutch, may be neatly pigeon-holed as a heavy hitting rock band, they are so much more, explore their albums and see them live. The interplay between the rhythm section is strong, bold and then we have up front Sult’s guitar that can growl, cajole and play rock n’ roll against Fallon’s vocals spitting out the lyrics, or rolls them around his tongue and lays them bare for the audience to lap up. Clutch’s set tonight was magnetic, electrifying as they weaved into the granite rock base, rap, funk andblues as they rocked out with the fans who came tonight to hear the Music.Clutch delivered and a perfect way to make a Tuesday night in December shimmerto the waves of heavy rock heard tonight.

Set List D.C. Sound Attack! (Earth Rocker) The House That Peterbilt (Clutch) Spirit of ’76 (Book of Bad Decisions) Open Up the Border (Pure Rock Fury) Pure Rock Fury (Pure Rock Fury) Sucker for the Witch (Psychic Warfare) Decapitation Blues (Psychic Warfare) Gimme the Keys (Decisions) Firebirds! (Psychic Warfare) Burning Beard (Robot Hive / Exodus) Emily Dickinson (Book of Bad Decisions) Hot Bottom Feeder (Book of Bad Decisions) In Walks Barbella (Book of Bad Decisions) Electric Worry (From Beale Street To Oblivion) The Mob Goes Wild (Blast Tyrant) Encore A Good Fire (Book of Bad Decisions) Weird Times (Book of Bad Decisions)

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