In 1989 my club cricket team ventured to Gepps Cross in the outer northern suburbs of Adelaide to play Gepps Cross. Early in the match, our young, brash fast bowler offered some choice commentary to one of the opposition’s opening batsman. At the end of the over the batsman removed his helmet to reveal a head heavy with facial hair and a couple of earrings. His tattoos – in those days, a graphic symbol of experience and potential aggression, rather than a mere fashion statement – suggested our bowler’s rhetoric was ill-timed and intemperate. Within a few overs the bearded batsman was flailing us to all parts of the barren outfield, and our fate was sealed.
The memory of that game drifted back as Clutch came onstage at the Prince Bandroom. Neil Fallon has no obvious tattoos, but in every other respect he’s the tough bloke you know you shouldn’t mess with. Fallon parades around the stage like a blues-rock evangelist, his incendiary stage presence lighting a fire of excitement in the already excited crowd. There’s a tethered mania in his eyes, like a man who knows more than he reveals. Fallon gesticulates to affirm each rhetorical flourish. There’s nothing pretentious or contrived here.
On guitar Tim Sult is a model of efficiency. There are no stadium rock histrionics, Jimmy Page antics or indulgent guitar hero moves, yet the riffs keep coming with the relentless precision of a bludgeoning cover drive. Jean-Paul Gastner is a machine, and a brutal machine at that: he’s swinging like a motherfucker, both musically and literally when the band breaks from stoner rock groove into rock’n’roll whitewater. Bass player Dan Maines barely moves for the entire evening, and his grip on the rhythm section refuses to be broken.
Clutch is an album band, and tonight’s set is weighed heavily toward material from the band’s most recent album, Earth Rocker, though the band dips occasionally into its extensive catalogue; tracks such as Regulator, Spacegrass and Electric Worry send the crowd into apoplexy.
The set ends temporarily, and the band members return to the stage for a two, or maybe three-song encore. Fallon takes a photo of the crowd for posterity and the night is over. You can’t fault Clutch – this is a rock’n’roll band like few others.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Photos by Richard Sharman
Loved: The manifest absence of pretension.
Hated: That it was a school night.
Drank: Beer in plastic cups.