In the year 2015 A.D., the average St. Louis, MO-area loud rock music fan can expect a couple of things: #1 – Most artists and tours will generally pass over this city. #2 – If you’re lucky, a band will stop here on a one-off date. #3 – There’s the unfortunate reality that, in the event that a band does stop to play here, they may run the risk of possibly getting robbed and have their gear or belongings stolen. And finally, #4 – The bands that do play St. Louis and play here often are those that have usually developed a strong fan base over the years, meaning that they will more than likely return in some fashion, and most likely on a headlining run to support a new album.
Maryland’s Clutch is one such band that fits the criteria of #4. The rock quartet has maintained a steady and respectable career all their own for the past nearly twenty-five years. The group’s unique combination of elements of blues, heavy metal, funk, alternative, and even hardcore punk in their early days, have proven them to be a highly influential force in the stoner rock movement since their formation in 1991. So, when routing their official headlining tour to support their latest and eleventh total album, Psychic Warfare (which debuted at Number 11 of the Billboard 200, and Number 1 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums chart), it came as little surprise to anyone that they would make sure to book a date at the St. Louis-area venue in which they’ve performed nearly every time they’ve toured for almost the past decade, Pop’s in Sauget, IL (just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis).
For years, Clutch has always found themselves in the company of fellow blues and classic rock/metal-influenced bands while on tour; both from supporting acts as well as co-headliners. The Psychic Warfare Tour was no different, beginning with Venice, CA trio, The Shrine. Opening to an already packed house (if the show didn’t sell out by the end of the night, it damn sure was close), their crunchy psychedelic jams were destined to please Clutch fans. Led by the hard-hitting wails and big guitar leads of vocalist Josh Landau, rounded out by bassist Court Murphey and drummer Jeff Murray, The Shrine surely gained some new fans with selections from their latest album, 2014’s Bless Off. But it was the band that Clutch brought on this run as direct support that made this tour a must-see.
Clutch live by themselves is enough, but when you add Corrosion Of Conformity – with Pepper Keenan returning to guitar and vocal duties since 2006 – scheduled to perform just before them? Well then, you just can’t afford to pass that up, now can you? Backed by a banner of their 1994 album Deliverance (their fourth overall but first to feature Keenan on vocal duties) C.O.C. reassured the rabid crowd that, at least for now, they are indeed back in full force, the way that so many believe that they should be. This consensus may even include the band members themselves, as it was apparent that all four members showed great joy and enthusiasm not only in their playing, but to each other, regularly joking around with one another on stage, smiling nearly all the while. A stark contrast to the last time C.O.C. played St. Louis (early summer 2012 at The Firebird) where guitarist Woody Weatherman, bassist Mike Dean, and drummer Reed Mullin seemed to be going through the motions on stage. Though originally reuniting for special performances including sets performing their 1991 album Blind in its entirety, it remains unclear whether or not this C.O.C. lineup will remain to continue to tour or to write and record new material. But for those who bought a ticket to this tour, good times were had and musical desires were fulfilled, indeed.
While the re-Keenan-ified C.O.C. set was easily worth the price of admission, so too was the headlining set from Clutch. Opening with two new songs, “X-Ray Visions” and “Firebirds!,” Clutch spent the majority of their Psychic Warfare Tour, unsurprisingly, performing songs from said new album. The set list consisted of roughly two thirds of the album itself, supported mostly by songs from their previous effort, 2013’s Earth Rocker. Other notable tracks were sprinkled throughout, including “The Elephant Riders,” “Burning Beard,” “Pure Rock Fury,” and an encore featuring “The Regulator” and “The Mob Goes Wild.” Surprisingly absent from the song selection was anything off of their acclaimed recent success of 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion. Perhaps they’ve become tired of the obligatory crowd-pleasing closer that is “Electric Worry,” and wanted to at least give it a rest.
Clutch performed at their best that Friday night. And if you’ve seen them before, you know what to expect. Guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines, and drummer John-Paul Gaster jam out in almost technical, clockwork precision, while charismatic vocalist Neil Fallon hams it up on stage. Clearly dedicated to letting his words shoot out of him with the tenacious controlled ferocity of a southern preacher exorcising demons, Fallon and company gave St. Louis exactly what they wanted to start off their weekend. By the end of their set, both the audience and the band were soaked in sweat from their respective movements and overall body heat from a, once again, [nearly] sold-out, one thousand person-plus capacity venue.
While Clutch may not have gotten such the high-numbered turnout they did on this Friday, they certainly never get any less of a response. A melting pot of music fans ranging from country blues-hounds to death/thrash headbangers to rockabilly hipsters and everything in between, he St. Louis market has always been good to Clutch and vice-versa. And if the band’s success continues to rise as it has in recent years, there seem to be no signs that such a long-lasting relationship would falter. In fact, it may even grow to the point where larger area venues and media outlets take note of Clutch, even after an over two decade-long career, and collaborate in some way(s). Until then, please enjoy our photos from the show below.
Psychic Warfare, the latest and eleventh album by Clutch, is available now through Weathermaker Music. Special thanks to Doug Weber of New Ocean Media the press credentials and settin gup this opportunity!
My sincerest apology for the delay of this entry; after this show, I experienced multiple health concerns (all resolved) including a hospital trip. But, I am happy to say that I have fully recovered and am excited to be back to working with Damnation Magazine!