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Mastodon, Live in Los Angeles

Beard rock bastions battle the tinseltown PA

All too often the joy you get when your favourite bands announce a show is tempered by the knowledge of where they’re playing, and, alas, such is the case with this co-headliner. Let’s be clear: CLUTCH [7] never play a bad show, ever, but tonight they struggle with poor sound, as does every other band that plays at the Palladium.

There’s an odd sensation of hearing the opening tunes, Mob Goes Wild, Profits Of Doom and Earth Rocker, broken down into their component parts, vocals, guitar, bass and drums, and somehow not mixed together. By about mid-set things have improved as much as they’re going to through a PA that’s had its arse torn out by dubstep shows, but still the monster riff for Unto The Breach is somewhat castrated, and Cyborg Betty isn’t running nearly as hot as usual.

The good news is the Clutch are masters of their craft and can rock any venue so, even here, the new track X-Ray Visions sounds like an instant classic. It’s just that Clutch can be so much better than this, life-changing even, and this is not one of those nights.

Which doesn’t bode well for MASTODON [7], whose last LA show was like watching paint dry. True, it was a Jackson Pollock, as enthralling to many as it was dull to others, but to some it questioned whether the band had drifted too far towards prog rock. Of course, bands evolve over the years and it’s nice when you can follow their path, but sometimes the change is too much and you have to be honest with yourself. Hey, gigs are fucking expensive!

Thankfully, despite the muddy sound, Mastodon seem vastly more on form tonight, and by Blasteroid, three songs in, they have restored a great deal of faith. Sure, they still have a tendency to sound like Rush on steroids, but this setlist is better chosen. There are more hints of the old High On Fire/Neurosis/Clutch vibe, more meat to go with all the vegetables, and while it’s pointless bitching that they don’t play the hits, it’s by no means a bad show.

It is, however, a bad idea to Google the setlist and then expect the show to end with Clutch frontman Neil Fallon joining Mastodon for the mighty Blood And Thunder (a hit at last!). Instead, they run out of time and you’re left to go home with an ‘if only’…