Clutch & Bombus @ The Ritz
Nothing that Clutch do is overtly original. But originality isn’t always necessary and the much-loved and lauded Maryland quartet are, in 2015, embodying everything that there is to love about rock n’ roll. It is for that very reason that The Ritz is absolutely rammed tonight. From Neil Fallon’s razor sharp, tongue-in-cheek lyricisms to Jean-Paul Gaster’s shuffling, cow bell worshipping beats and Tim Sult’s wah-drenched single note riffs, their set is more fun than a bouncy castle after a bucket full of sherbet.
The world is a funny place though and paradoxes are more common than sunshine during a British Summer. Sweden’s Bombus apply the same straightforward hard rock approach as their tour mates, yet it’s hard to find much character and gusto within their loud and massive sound. There’s just nothing here to really suck you in and get you moving. The blueprint for most of their songs is the same, building on punchy power chords, punk drumming and roared, gravel shredded vocal refrains and while they are all elements we crave for, it isn't overly convincing. Dashes of lead work flavour the gruff textures nicely and their drummer is at times relentless – his Bonham channelling the highlight to their set – but for the most part they leave you wanting more. When they drop into slower, doomier moments, such as Into The Fire, which revels in pungent bong water. Its riffs are towering, it’s harmonies like thick honey together and show glimpses of something more than what is otherwise a set of rock template linearity.
Clutch’s set meanwhile, does exactly as you’d expect it to. Fallon parades around the stage on a no-holds-barred, no-fannying-about Deep Purple inspired rendition of X-Ray Vision. He looks like a dad dancing at a wedding but delivers his lyrics like a rapturous preacher, the crowd, his followers in full voice behind him. As ever, no other member really moves from their initial spot, leaving your eyes to gravitate towards the bearded loon centre stage and their sound suffers from clarity at points, but their mission statement is simple and there’s little room for complaint, even if you are left feeling that this isn’t their finest hour to date.
Deep cuts like The Soapmakers get everyone’s heads moving like an army of pigeons and the possessed and slimy tones of The Dragonfly sound inspired. Sucker For The Witch sounds like a Clutch classic already and Gravel Road bounces with the spirit and bombast Muddy Waters and company, yet reverential thanks to its contemporary edge.
The encore, the molten boogie cum sing along of Cypress Grove and the Motörhead, driving fury of Earth Rocker caps the night better than a scotch on the rocks and they prove that, even on what could be considered an off day, there are few rock bands who sound quite as crucial, vital and entertaining as Clutch.
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Charlotte Wellings