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Blues-rock with balls: Clutch Live

Maryland’s finest blast their way into Brixton.

‘‘ALL ABOARD THE fuck yeah express!” bellows Neil Fallon. The rock’n’roll locomotive that is Clutch stops for nothing and no one – with the Shepherd’s Bush Empire closed on short notice after being declared structurally unsound (if the house is a-rocking, call Health & Safety), the band’s London show jumps to the larger Brixton Academy. Despite the mere four days’ notice and the doubling in capacity, the Academy might not be sold out, but it’s a comfortably packed house.

Alas, there is no getting around the fact that the sound is awful. Either the front-of-house man has lost the will to live, or he needs to clean the wax out of his ears. The low end is a distorted mess and Fallon has to fight for space in the swampy mix. That’s a cardinal sin – Clutch’s frontman has a glorious, distinctive voice, equal parts hellfire preacher, drill sergeant and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins voodoo priest. Fallon is the dynamo that powers the quartet. Where Tim Sult is perpetually hunched over his guitar and bassist Dan Maines is content to remain affixed to his amplifier, Fallon commands the stage with his piercing gaze and restless prowling.

The set list draws heavily from their latest album with Psychic Warfare contributing half the evening’s selection. Standing tall among the new tracks, X-Ray Visions is audio nitroglycerin, Behold The Colossus is a beautiful monster and A Quick Death In Texas is an overdriven, sleazy blues. While Clutch can do bruising heavy rock, they possess a sense of dynamics and groove that most rockers lack. D.C. Sound Attack! shows their Maryland heritage, referencing Trouble Funk’s go-go classic Drop The Bomb, with Fallon laying into a cowbell to complement drummer Jean-Paul Gaster’s fat beat.

They’ve got funk, and they’re not afraid to use it.