Review by Pete Finn for MPM
With Christmas just over a week away, and lucky me having just finished work for the year, this is currently mine and ‘Statler’ Manson’s last trip together to Rock City for the year.
We’ve crammed in a lot of brilliant gigs and seen some amazing artists both here in Rock City and next door in The Rescue Rooms during 2022. From a personal point of view, we have saved one of my favourites until last, in festive terms, it’s the ‘Big Present’, it’s American hard rockers Clutch. Tonight, is another triple bill with both Green Lung and Tigercub in support, this will be the trio’s penultimate gig of an extensive European Tour, which has seen them perform at two UK legs, book-ending several dates in Europe.
Tonight, it’s reading -2.5°C as Manny parks our Tour Bus on level 10 of the car park, there’s a lot going on in Nottingham tonight. We make our way down to Rock City; the staff are well prepared and we’re straight in. It’s five minutes before our first band are due to take the stage, and the hall is fairly empty. I bump into some of the Melton Rockers as they make their way back from the bar, there’s nine of them, so that’s an expensive round, and it’s great to see my mate Sean (see my Saxon review) with them.
Tigercub are a three-piece rock band from Brighton. The band are Jamie Stephen Hall (vocals and lead guitar), James Allix (drums) and Jimi Wheelwright (bass). Tigercub have released three EPs, between 2013 and 2017, they have also released two full-length albums, ‘Abstract Figures in the Dark’ during 2016 and ‘As Blue as Indigo’ last year. The band have recently signed a deal with Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard, who they appeared on the bill with at this year’s British Summer Time event at Hyde Park.
The house lights go out, and Tigercub make their way out onto the stage. Bassist Jimi Wheelwright is wearing a very appropriate bobble hat, and Hall is sporting a trench coat. The first track is ‘Favourite Song’, which is the trio simply getting warmed up – the band are standing in line with each other on a slightly crowded stage as there are three sets of kit onstage.
Hall thanks the Nottingham audience for coming in early to see them. ‘Sleepwalker’ is taken from their most recent album, 2021’s ‘As Blue as Indigo’. The electro-fuzz start with Allix providing a steady beat. Jimi Wheelwright is twisting and turning as he pulls the strings. The sound gets dirty as Hall plays his solo. The vocals are carried proudly by the grungy tones.
Without pausing, a wall of wash and feedback is the prelude to the next track, we’re sticking with the ‘As Blue as Indigo’ album, next, we have ‘Blue Mist in My Head’. This has more of an Indie feel, especially with Hall’s vocal, he calls for Rock City to clap along. It’s not long before the sound evolves, it’s similar to early Queens Of The Stone Age, and I like it. The track finishes as Wheelwright lifts his aqua-marine coloured bass high above his head.
‘Memory Boy’ is from the debut album ‘Abstract Figures in the Dark’, the simple circular riff and steady lyric start the track, the crash of Allix’s drums signals a change of sound, Wheelwright’s bass is up in your face and boxing your ears, Hall is now chanting the lyrics, he raises a can of beer as a show of appreciation to the Rock City crowd.
A punching bass, a dirty riff and hard beat signals the start of ‘The Perfume of Decay’ which is Tigercub’s recent single. The haunting lyrics are emphasised as Hall elongates the syllables. The sound reminds me of early Radiohead played with a backdrop of over-the-top fuzz. It works brilliantly. Jimi Wheelwright is rocking out as Allix gives his kit a beating.
Up next is the wonderfully titled, ‘Stop Beating on My Heart (Like a Bass Drum)’ from the ‘As Blue as Indigo’ album. With Hall’s spoken intro, before Wheelwright and Allix come crashing in. It’s moody and emotional with a powerful beat. Wheelwright’s bass tone has the menace of an Al Capone Enforcer. The hall is now over half full as the track finishes, Hall raises his hand and salutes those inside Rock City.
Tigercub’s final track tonight is taken from ‘As Blue as Indigo’, it’s ‘Beauty’. Another superb dirty riff, giving off a big stoner vibe. The vocal from Hall ascends and descends the scale, as if playing Snakes and Ladders. I’m sure some of the riffs contain a nod to some of the greats. Some of those down at the front are head-banging others punching the air, Hall gets the crowd cheering before firing out his solo, he finishes with his guitar held above his head.
The band thank the crowd again, before waving and leaving the stage, and the crowd in here tonight judging by the cheers and applause enjoyed Tigercub. The tempo changes and mix of sounds give a genre splitting performance, somewhere between, stoner, indie and grunge, but, with a sprinkle of that magic psychedelic dust. Watch this space…
Setlist: Favourite Song; Sleepwalker; Blue Mist in My Head; Memory Boy; The Perfume of Decay; Stop Beating on My Heart (Like a Bass Drum); Beauty.
The crews have a quick fifteen-minute change-over, and I have chance to catch-up with my Iron Maiden buddy Wenda.
Green Lung are a psychedelic/occult rock quintet from London. Founded in 2017 and drawing from occult and pagan themes, along with folklore, myths and legends of Britain, the band’s sound harkens back to the golden days of psychedelic rock and proto-metal, injecting those classic sounds with occult venom and punk energy. Following frequent shows including a Halloween all-dayer, work began on a debut album in September 2018, this would receive critical acclaim when it was released in 2019, titled ‘Woodland Rites’. The band immediately made an impact in the London underground rock scene, and gaining more momentum with their 2021 follow-up ‘Black Harvest’. The line-up consists of Tom Templar (vocals), Matt Wiseman (drums), Scott Black (guitar), John Wright (keyboards) and Joseph Ghast (bass). This is my first time seeing Green Lung, Manny assures me I’m “in for a real treat”.
The lights go out, and to a backing tape of Folk Music the band walk out, last on stage is vocalist Templar who milks the crowd as he appears. Green Lung open their set tonight with the title track of their 2019 album ‘Woodland Rites’. My first thoughts are Sabbath, good thoughts. The heads are nodding straight away, quite a few know this one. Templar, foot on the monitor is narrating the lyrics, the beats hard and steady, Scott Black unleashes a solo that is spine-tingling. John Wright is stroking his keys to great effect. I’m hooked.
Next, it’s something from last years ‘Black Harvest’ album, with ‘Leaders of the Blind’. Wiseman’s beats are up front, Wright has the keys purring. Ghast controlling the tempo, as we rock back and forth, the sound is rich and full. The tempo increases as Black launches another solo. Tom Templar raises his horns to the Rock City crowd, the crowd copy and cheer.
The story that is ‘The Ritual Tree’ from ‘Woodland Rites’ is told next. Templar the Minstrel has centre stage, prowling and pointing at the crowd. John Wright has the keys producing sinister sounds, coupled with the backing vocals, you imagine a group of druids chanting in the woods. The band guiding your focus towards the story. It gets heavy, Sabbath heavy. Wright is head-banging, looking like he’s playing the notes with his forehead. This track grabs the attention, and holds on to it. The punching fists indicate that Rock City is enjoying this one.
Wiseman pounds the drums, Black’s guitar hook reels us in, as ‘Old Gods’ from ‘Black Harvest’ starts. This has a stop/start tempo, the riffs and keys are cleverly entwined, but this doesn’t stop the hammering beats from the rhythm section of Ghast and Wiseman trying their hardest to straighten them out. This is all happening as Templar’s vocal carves through the mixture of sounds, he’s punching the air and calls for Rock City to copy.
Staying with ‘Black Harvest’, we have ‘Reaper’s Scythe’. The Prog style intro, lulls us into a false sense of security, it’s not long before the band deliver a powerful body blow as the sound explodes. Quick riffs and beats have the crowd bouncing. This has real energy; this is a rocker. Templar is off the stage and in the pit, he’s on the crush barrier as he cries out the words. Rock City is a mass of cheers as the track concludes.
Templar screams to the crowd, “Rock City we love you, sing your hearts out”. We finish as we started, with a track from the debut ‘Woodland Rites’, it’s ‘Let the Devil In’. A feisty mix of riffs, shuddering beats and harmonies. The riffs nudging the dirty side, Templar’s vocal clean and sharp, it’s a great contrast especially with the added fuzz, distortion and pure energy added by Wiseman and Ghast. Tom Templar is leaning back, mic cupped in this hands as the belts out the final few lines, before the band finish. Rock City have liked Green Lung a lot. The band leave the stage handing out copies of the setlist.
Well, my partner in crime ‘Statler’ Manson wasn’t wrong when he said I was in for a treat. I certainly feel that this ‘Old Muppet’ has won the prize in the Green Lung Christmas Cracker pull.
Setlist: Woodland Rites; Leaders of the Blind; The Ritual Tree; Old Gods; Reaper’s Scythe; Let the Devil In.
Clutch was formed in 1991 by Dan Maines (bass), Jean-Paul Gaster (drums), Tim Sult (guitar), and Roger Smalls (vocals) in Germantown, Maryland. Before settling on the name Clutch, the band used the early names Glut Trip and Moral Minority. Smalls soon departed and was replaced by Neil Fallon, a long-time schoolmate of the other members at Seneca Valley High School. The band’s name was chosen due to the band’s interest in cars at the time, and it being a one-syllable name like many bands at the time, including Prong, who the band was fans of. To date, Clutch has released thirteen studio albums, the first being ‘Transnational Speedway League’ in 1993, with the most recent ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’ released in September this year. They have also released several rarities and live albums. Since 2008, the band has been signed to their own record label, Weathermaker Music.
The 1984 Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers song ‘We Need Some Money’, is played over the PA, the whistling and cheering starts as the excitement builds, Clutch walk out onto the stage, Neil Fallon is conducting the crowd, the house lights go out and the stage glows bright orange. It’s ‘Slaughter Beach’ from the recent ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’ album, heavy bass from Maines, and a good low-down dirty riff from Tim Sult drive this track to your inner soul, you can feel it. Rock City is bouncing. The tempo changes compliment Fallon’s voice. Gaster, who’s set-up consists of about five drums and four cymbals is pounding the kit as the heads nod in time.
We’re straight into ‘Gimme The Keys’ which is taken from ‘Book of Bad Decisions’ released in 2018. Fallon has moved to the front edge of the stage, he coaxing the crowd into jumping. Maines bass and Gaster’s drums dislodging confetti from the lighting rigs. The has a great blues boogie to it. Tim Sult is looking down rocking back and forth as he fires out the solo.
Neil Fallon speaks, “Thank you Rock City, it’s great to be back.” Then massive wash and hard beats bring in ‘We Strive For Excellence’ from the new album. Fallon is dancing, Rock City is bouncing, Sult delivering a powerful circular riff. Think of The Blues Brothers doing heavy metal, it sounds full and fantastic. It’s conclusion is met with huge cheers. That was a real party tune.
Neil Fallon is handed a guitar, his riff introduces ‘The Soapmakers’ this is from ‘The Elephant Riders’ which was released during 1998. Rock City is still jumping, there are tempo changes, Gaster plays a solo and a pit starts, Maines takes over solo duties and the first crowd surfer of the evening goes across the sea of waving arms. The band jam together until the track finishes.
‘The Regulator’ from 2004’s ‘Blast Tyrant’ starts, this is slower, Fallon stumming his strings, the crowd start clapping along. Fallon is telling a story; Rock City is listening intently. The sound fills the room, but this is all about the vocal. Rock City liked that one.
Fallon speaks to the audience, “Thank you very much everybody. Nottingham is always a good night, in fact Rock City was our last gig in 2019 before the world went to shit.” From the recent album we have ‘Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)’. This is quick, Fallon sounds angry as he belts out the lyrics, the stop/start tempo is effective. The stage lighting strobing red, Fallon in down on the barrier. Maines slaps his Rickenbacker’s strings and Rock City vibrates; it gets quicker, propelled forward by Tim Sult’s fierce riff. Rock City is on fire.
Fallon tells us, “It’s time to get weird”. A Theremin is brought onto the stage. A fast drum beat and crisp circular riff signals the start of ‘Skeletons on Mars’, this is off the new ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’ album. The pace is frantic to start, the overlayed vocal from Fallon is slower, this mix sounds great. Fallon plays the Theremin, he looks like a magician casting a spell, as his hands glide over the instrument. Sult’s riff is dirty, matching the pounding bass from Maines, the sci-fi sounding clangs and echo’s create a space like atmosphere. Very clever.
“Get weird, stay weird” is the way Fallon introduces ‘Ghoul Wrangler’. it’s taken from ‘Book of Bad Decisions’, Fallon’s spoken words and a steady Sult riff get the track going. The pace intensifies as the track develops, the sound splits into different sections during the song showing great ability from the band not only in playing, but the construction of the track.
‘Worm Drink’ from ‘Blast Tyrant’ has that heavy 70’s funk feel. Some of the riffs could have been from the Starsky and Hutch TV series. Neil Fallon’s vocal sits proudly above all the other sounds, he’s pointing at people up on the balcony above. Sult’s solo has the crowd hooked.
Clutch pick up the ‘Book of Bad Decisions’ to read to us another chapter, it’s ‘In Walks Barbarella’. The crowd know it, it’s a big favourite, the crowd are singing and bouncing. The fists are punching the air again. Heads around me are nodding, faces grinning. Arguably, the biggest cheer of the evening so far, shows Rock City enjoyed that.
Now it’s, ‘A Quick Death in Texas’ from ‘Psychic Warfare’, Tim Sult starts the track moving, Fallon is slowly speaking the words, the sound builds. Rock City are on lead vocals for the chorus. This has a southern rock feel, Gaster is hitting the cowbell (everyone likes some cowbell). Sult’s scratchy guitar solo has everyone’s attention.
“Speaking of Texas”, says Fallon, “Let me introduce you to Per Wiberg, who’s going to play keys for the rest of the show”. Per Jonas Wiberg is the former keyboardist of Swedish progressive death metal band Opeth, and a member of Michael Amott’s stoner metal band Spiritual Beggars. He collaborated on a project called King Hobo with Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and Kamchatka guitarist Thomas Andersson.
The electronic intro and haunting bass start ‘Spacegrass’ from the 1995 self-titled ‘Clutch’ album. The narrated intro fades and Fallon’s voice cuts through the air. He’s now shouting, the electronic sound morphs into a rock track full of energy, we revert back to the spoken section with Maines’ bass rumble. The track speeds up, a signal for the surfers to start again. This track has a totally different sound to it.
‘Cypress Grove’ from ‘Blast Tyrant’ has a funk style intro, Fallon is soon shouting the lyrics. Sult’s guitar riffs are suitably fuzzy. Maines bass really adds to the vibe as he slaps the strings. Wiberg plays a solo, the band jam together. Fallon is stood on a monitor encouraging the crowd.
Fallon tells us that the show in London tomorrow, will be their 120th of the year. Then, from the latest album we have ‘Three Golden Horns’, Gaster and Maines provide a quick marching beat and clear lyrics from Fallon gets the Rock City crowd jumping. The stage is illuminated by flashing gold lights. Sult’s solo is a bit different, fuzz, distortion and has the Rock City crowd punching the air.
Staying with ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’ it’s ‘Jackhammer Our Names’, this is slow, Fallon is speaking the words with passion as if preaching to the Rock City faithful, they are listening, slowly nodding in approval and agreement.
Tim Sult changes his guitar for the first time this evening, next we have ‘Nosferatu Madre’. Again, it’s from ‘Sunrise on Slaughter Beach’ it’s slower, steady, a rowing beat start. Fallon’s lyrics short, Gaster’s precise drums control the pace, Sult crashes out riffs before letting rip with a clever solo. The tempo increases to a galloping pace as the track concludes.
Next, we have a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Lord of This World’ from their 1971 album ‘Master of Reality’. Fallon is rapping the lyrics over a fast guitar hook from Sult and crushing beat from Maines and Gaster. The track is explosive. “You’ve been fantastic Nottingham”, Fallon says as he leaves the stage, the rest of the band jam through to the outro, then follow him off the stage.
It’s encore time, Rock City whistle, cheer and clap until the band return. Fallon thanks the other bands who have entertained us tonight. The band start, but quickly stop smiling, it’s a false start, they regroup and begin again. We have the interestingly titled ‘10001110101’ which is from the 2005 album ‘Robot Hive/Exodus’. Slow and steady, with quick bursts of riffs and drum beats. The crowd inside Rock City know the number sequence and chant the numbers out with Fallon. This is against a pumping murmur of a bass line, there is an almost sneaky funk groove in the back ground. It’s hard to stand still and not get dragged into tapping or nodding along. A guy who’s on somebody’s shoulders is rocking out enjoying the track.
This is a Clutch classic, it’s had over 33 million plays on Spotify, it’s ‘Electric Worry’ taken off the ‘From Beale Street to Oblivion’ album, which was released in 2007. This is obviously a big favourite amongst the Rock City crowd, they’re up bouncing and singing along. The pit strikes up again, there’s a sea of arms, horns and hair. Neil Fallon is playing slide guitar. This is Badass Outlaw Rock at its finest. Bouncing beats and dirty swamp riffs. Bloody awesome.
We reach the final track of the night, ‘The Devil & Me’ is on ‘From Beale Street to Oblivion’ released during 2007. A distorted riff is accompanied by Fallon’s lyrics, again he’s preaching to us, the congregation in Rock City is hanging on every word and note. Heads are bobbing and mouthing the words. The track plays out to a big finish. Rock City erupts in showing their appreciation. The band wave, bow, flick picks and graciously accept the applause.
Rock City has been electric tonight, the bands have all brought their ‘A’ game, we’ve heard old classics and I’m sure a few future classics too. The support by Tigercub and Green Lung was excellent, and Clutch certainly delivered on the ‘Big Present’ front.
Setlist: Slaughter Beach; Gimme The Keys; We Strive For Excellence; The Soapmakers; The Regulator; Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone); Skeletons on Mars; Ghost Wrangler; Worm Drink; Barbarella Walks In; A Quick Death in Texas; Spacegrass; Cypress Grove; Three Golden Horns; Jackhammer Our Names; Nosferatu Madre; Lord of This World; 10001110101; Electric Worry; The Devil & Me.
As Manny and I return to level 10 to get back in our Tour Bus, we find the car next to us has parked far too close and Manny can’t open his door. He decides to climb over from the passenger side, this could be interesting, as we’re both built for comfort rather than agility. It wasn’t so much Olga Korbut, but more like Ronnie Corbett. I’m just glad he made it, otherwise I would have to call the Fire Brigade to cut the roof off if he’d got stuck, and that would have caused a very cold drive home.
Photography by Manny Manson for MPM