Birmingham City Centre is full of two types of people on this Saturday night. Those who are out for their Christmas party - the boring option - or those out to go watch Clutch - the better option. 3 guesses where we were heading.
Before the almighty US group graced our stage, we managed to catch the support by The Picturebooks. Something I've been noticing for the past year is the absolute increase in quality of support bands. Tonight was no exception to this. Only two people came onstage as the lights dimmed and the music died down, much to my confusion. The drummer took his seat in the centre of the stage and another gentleman joined with a guitar slung across his shoulders. With a grin on their faces, they burst into their set which is an absolute smashdown of your senses. With a sound that would make little old ladies scream, but the rest of us go crazy, it's actually the sight of this twin talented band that grasps me the most. Philipp Mirtschink assualts the drumkit like a mad man who's been told the winning lotto ticket is under the snare skin. They are thankfully given a lengthy set and there isn't a single moment where they stop. I can't wait for these pair (who originate from Germany!) to get a full tour around the UK.
But as the stage is cleared (of both drums and sweat), the crowd pushes the Academy to its limits. When they advertise a sold-out gig, it's not actually often that it feels like one. However Clutch have pulled out a crowd that full the upstairs and downstairs of the Brummie gig, to a point that I haven't seen it as full since the Black Sabbath 2012 'rehearsal'. I'd say there was an air of electricity, but it was more of a cloud of thunder ready to crack as the trans-Atlantic metal mad men came out and threw the crowd straight into their set with 'Weird Times'.
It's hard to describe a Clutch gig to someone who hasn't experienced one. To start with, listen to any of the bands albums (actually, listen to their latest one), because it's exactly the same sound, if not better live. It's tough to sing live, trust me - we've seen countless that can't, but Neil Patrick Fallon is in a whole different league. But it's not just the stand-out vocals from NPF, the whole unit are undeniable. Tim Sult (who you can read our interview with here) and Dan Maines are on beat, in tune and shredding with insanity and keeping everyone perfectly in time is the machine Jean-Paul Gaster.
But the music isn't the only highlight of a Clutch show. Neil has complete control over the room, with the energy of a man who's just drank the venues supply of coffee and the bark of a cult leader, he's all over the stage with the audience following his every word and move. The set slides effortlessly through 17 tracks, which is heavily dominated by the latest album, which this crowd knows word for word, with 'How To Shake Hands' almost shaking the floor with the volume level of people singing along.
Sadly the night flies by and it's suddenly encore time. But Jean (who wrote that evenings set-list) pulls out what is arguably a rare way to finish off a Clutch show. Not a single song from the latest album comes out, instead three 'big-hitters'. 'The Regulator', 'Electric Worry' and 'X-Ray Visions' finish off the night. In doing this, Clutch make sure everyone in that venue leave with ringing ears, sore throats and the memory of arguably one of the best shows of 2018.