Erik D. Harshman
I feel compelled, right off the bat, to explain that this is my 12th time seeing Clutch and my 9th time seeing Lamb of God live. I mention this because: a.) it shows I’m a rabid fan of both bands (both their recorded material and their live performance) and b.) well, perhaps there are no surprises left for me in seeing either band live.
I also feel that I should mention that I’ve actually seen (half of) this tour before: I saw Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity on October 16th of last year at St. Louis’s answer to the Titty Twister (the vampire bar in From Dusk ‘Till Dawn), Pop’s.
And, finally, it is incredibly appropriate that I review this show, as last year I had the pleasure of reviewing both the new Lamb of God and the new Clutch album for this website. This show seems like the culmination of all that listening, meditation and writing.
With all this said, if this review seems overtly cynical or written with a distinct sense of ennui, please refer to article b.) above. And if this review veers into the dorky territory of Gil Graham (remember Adam Sandler’s dorky metal critic from Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update”… The one upon which he based Little Nicky?), then please refer back to article a.)
Now, I’ve seen some epic Lamb of God shows. I’ve seen them on Sounds of the Underground, seen them co-headline with Fear Factory, seen them open for Mushroomhead (wait… that wasn’t epic… sorry), on the MTV2 Headbanger’s Ball tour… The list goes on and on. And I’ve seen some epic Clutch shows as well. I’ve seen on the Ladies Night in Cambodia Tour (with Sevendust and… eck!… Limp Bizkit), I’ve seen them then open for Sevendust, open for Slayer and most significantly open for the late Motorhead.
With all that in mind, probably the best Lamb of God show in recent memory could either be on Sounds of the Underground in 2005 (the set for which was immortalized on their 2005 live album Killadelphia) or in 2009 (when they toured for Wrath). That tour saw long-time friends God Forbid open for them and a set list that left next to nothing (save for “What I’ve Become” and “Everything to Nothing”) to be desired.
The best Clutch show I’ve seen… Yeeeesh! Every show they give seems to be the best. But their last show (which had just about every single song of theirs I love, both old and new) in October of last year probably takes the cake. Never did I thought I’d hear “Elephant Riders,” “Yeti,” “Devil and Me,” “DC Sound Attack,” and “Quick Death in Texas” live in one set. Epic.
Okay, so I’ve officially veered into Gil Graham territory.
But onto the actual show itself…
I came in during C.O.C’s set. Now, I’ve been an extremely casual fan of C.O.C for a few years now. My first experience with them was coming in at the tail end of their set in 1997 when they opened for Metallica on the Load tour. I’ve since seen them (when they reunited with Pepper back in October of last year) live and enjoyed it. But, obviously, I’m not an expert on the band. My knowledge of them is limited to a “Best Of” playlist I created on my iTunes (the albums from which I pulled are a combo of Pepper and non-Pepper albums…). But, in the end, I do recognize them as extremely decent southern rock-metal. Of their songs I caught “Albatross” and “Clean My Wounds”. They made the announcement of a new album coming in 2017 and seemed in good spirits.
Full C.O.C. set:
1.) “Bottom Feeder (El Que Come Abajo)”
2.) “Paranoid Opioid”
3.) “Broken Man”
4.) “Seven Days”
5.) “The Door”
6.) “Vote With a Bullet”
8.) “Clean My Wounds”
Next came Clutch. Their set consisted of:
1.) “Decapitation Blues”
2.) “Crucial Velocity”
3.) “A Quick Death in Texas”
4.) “Behold the Colossus”
5.) “Doom Saloon”
6.) “Our Lady of Electric Light”
7.) “The Soapmakers”
8.) “D.C. Sound Attack”
9.) “X-Ray Visions”
11.) “A Shogun Named Marcus”
12.) “The Wolf Man Kindly Requests…”
Again, the band, especially the sometimes-cantankerous Neil Fallon, seemed in especially high spirits. The band kicked off their set with Fallon grabbing his guitar and howling,
“Okay… Let’s party!”
Now, I have to say that a Clutch show (for me) is often hit or miss. Sometimes I’ve seen them and it’s been the best show of my life (March of 2008, July 2009, late 2010 and last October’s show all come to mind). Though sometimes I see them live and they play nary a song I like. This show, unfortunately, falls into that category. I loved that they played the only songs I’ve liked off their last two albums ( “D.C. Sound Attack” off Earth Rocker and “A Quick Death in Texas” off Psychic Warfare), and while I appreciate the selection of a rarely played song off Elephant Riders like “Soapmakers”, I would rather have had the usual suspects of “Elephant Riders”, “Eight Times Over Miss October” or, my favorite, “The Yeti”. And “Shogun Named Marcus,” well, for all the cringe-inducing cheesiness of its carefree lyrics, it’s still classic Clutch and brings a smile to one’s face when the opening licks are played.
Clutch’s set, despite my not 100% loving the song selection, was perfectly timed and did not overstay its welcome or steal any thunder from the headliner. The set up for the band was pretty no-frills (as Clutch is a pretty meat and potatoes band, and the better for it), but they did have an (mostly obscured by equipment) ego-banner for their new album, Psychic Warfare, as their only ornament of ostentation.
Though, just as when I saw Clutch open for Slayer, this was a bit of an odd pairing. Musically, this tour doesn’t really make sense at all. Still, the fact that this tour exists at all speaks to the diversity and universality of metal. Although, Damnation Magazine’s Matt turned to me and said, “Why did we even see that Clutch / C.O.C tour in October, if this tour was going to happen?”
*Sigh.* I don’t know, dude. But bands do this often.
I saw Job For A Cowboy in early 2007 on their first big headlining tour (with Psyopus and Dååth). On that tour, they announced that they would be back in a few months (in May) opening for Cannibal Corpse… with Psyopus…
I guess band’s make friends, alliances and network while on tour and decide to keep the partying going. Good for them, bad for us (as we’d like to see more unique and diversified pairing of bands).
Ah well, so it goes. Anyhow, on to Lamb of God….
1.) “Walk with Me in Hell”
3.) “Still Echoes”
6.) “Ghost Walking”
7.) “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For”
9.) “Faded Line”
10.) “Blacken the Cursed Sun”
14.) “Laid To Rest”
Now, my first few observations of Lamb of God’s show were (obviously) all superficial. First, visually, I’m a bit put-off by Randy Blythe’s new look: gnarled, short cropped dreads and his baggily-clad emaciated frame. I guess it helps to accentuate the gutter-punk metalhead mindset he has convinced us that he holds dear all these years. Still, it’s a bit uncomfortable to view. Furthermore, the band (for whatever reason) still has up the giant ego banner for Killadelphia (an album that came out over 10 years ago). Perhaps the banner was put up in remembrance? It sure as hell couldn’t have been chosen out of last-minute desperation, as the rest of their set-up was intricate and full of bells and whistles. Which brings me to my next point: Lamb of God used to be a no-frills band; a band of five guys and instruments who simply took the stage and thrashed. Now, they’ve got an ego banner (but, in their defense, they’ve had that for years now), giant LED screens (broadcasting various images and video footage, depending on the song), giant jets of smoke firing out from the top of the stage, and an uncountable amount of electric candles (of various lengths, but all of which look like they are in a various stages of melting… to give it that ominous, gothic effect), all with those flickering bulbs you see mostly in electric candles on the wreath adorning your mom’s front door around Christmas time.
Last summer, when I reviewed their new album, I mentioned how poppy and mainstream Lamb of God had become and how turning civilized is a detriment to metal bands. This tour, while perfectly enjoyable and fulfilling on all levels, exemplifies that perfectly. Really, it seems like Lamb of God is simply going through the motions at this point. They’ve gotten so big, have so many fans (this show, incidentally, was sold out at a venue that can hold roughly 2,600), have hit songs (a true metal no-no) and have such a big set-up that pairing it all down and going back to basics (and, say, doing a tour where they hit nothing but dive bar venues and small clubs) is out of the question. Once you’ve reached that point of no return, well, you start to realize that artistic integrity has suffered and the art begins to corrode from within.
That said, the set was extremely decent. I did note the distinct lack of new songs (only two by my count) from the new album (which I am lukewarm towards), only two songs from Resolution (an album I just about hated) and an excess of songs (standing at five) off Ashes of the Wake (still my favorite album of theirs… Though it does get strict competition from As the Palaces Burn and Sacrament, off which they played four songs). However, their first three song choices of the night almost seemed like they took their most blistering opening tracks and decided to blaze a scorching trail (incidentally, Kittie pulled this same method in 2012 on their last big tour; I wonder if bands everywhere have adopted this mindset). Their choices of songs to play off As the Palaces Burn were inspired, though somewhat predictable. I would love to hear rarely played tracks like “Blood Junkie” and “11th Hour,” but I’ll take what I can get. Furthermore, off the new album, I did not get my favorite track, “Delusion Pandemic.” And, finally, I don’t know if we will ever hear “Everything to Nothing” (off of Wrath) played live or “What I’ve Become” (off Ashes of the Wake) ever again. And their choice to end the night with “Redneck” (perhaps their first real genuine radio hit, off Sacrament) is perplexing and perhaps reinforces my previous comment about their loss of true metal integrity. They used to close the night with “Black Label” (a true stellar song that I used to play in order to introduce people to Lamb of God… it never failed to impress). Now, I understand that Blythe hates the New American Gospel album, if nothing else, for the quality of its production, but I do know that he’s always loved performing songs from that album live. However, in the end, the set list was immensely enjoyable (despite it not having some of my white whales).
And, for anyone wondering: yes, Blythe is still beating a dead horse and did mention his brief stint in jail in Prague in June of 2012. We get it, dude, you wrote a whole memoir about it (2015’s Darkest Days), those of us with any sense won’t stage-dive period, but you’ve GOT stop bringing that up!
All in all, the band itself seemed to be having a good time. Blythe leap frogged, ran and gesticulated wildly throughout the set (not bad for a guy of 45). Blythe came back after the closing of the show and led the crowd in an orchestrated cacophony of cheers. Clearly, these guys, even if they are going through the motions, are trying to have fun while doing it.
Final Score: 3/5
If you liked this show, you might also want to see live: Crobot, Down, Sixty-Watt Shaman, Anthrax, Machine Head, Toxic Holocaust, Skeletonwitch.
Be sure to view the rest of Nick’s images from the show in his photo gallery.