Clutch spent a lot of time performing live in 2019 on the Book of Bad Decisions tour, but that was nothing new for them – they are well known as the always-on-the-road band. In March, they made their way across the middle of the country on their way to a European tour in June. Back in the US in July, Clutch hosted their own festival for the third year running, Earth Rocker, at Shiley Acres in West Virginia. Numerous dates followed in July, including Heavy Montreal, and August, including Psycho Las Vegas. More touring in September and October, including a monster set before a sold out crowd at Aftershock in Sacramento. And then there was another stretch in Europe in December. After all of this, how does Clutch wrap up the year?
With three big shows in a row, on the 29th at the 9:30 Club in DC, the 30th at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ, and on New Year’s Eve at Union Transfer in Philadelphia. In these final three performances of 2019, Clutch played completely different sets at each venue, 54 songs total, and on New Year’s Eve, they performed their classic album Blast Tyrant in its entirety. This should be the example of Finishing Strong from now on. What an amazing year.
The band played more than 80 dates in 2019. I didn’t catch them all, but I did see them at six different shows, and each one was a full-tilt rock and roll experience. You can’t go wrong with Clutch, and live is best way to hear them. One thing that is really different about the band compared to others is their constantly changing set list. When many bands go on tour, they rehearse a fixed set and play the same songs at every date. Clutch plays a different set every time.
In interviews, the band has said that they take turns choosing which songs to play. How can they keep that much music in their heads? To make sure I wasn’t blacking out and misremembering this, I looked up set lists for three of the festival appearances Clutch made this year.
|Heavy Montreal||Psycho Las Vegas||Aftershock|
|Ghoul Wrangler||Ghoul Wrangler||The Mob Goes Wild|
|The Mob Goes Wild||Profits Of Doom||X-Ray Visions|
|How To Shake Hands||The Mob Goes Wild||Evil|
|Earth Rocker||How To Shake Hands||Cypress Grove|
|H. B. Is In Control||In Walks Barbarella||In Walks Barbarella|
|In Walks Barbarella||A Quick Death In Texas||Earth Rocker|
|Spirit of ’76||Willie Nelson||Gimme The Keys|
|A Quick Death In Texas||The Soapmakers||Willie Nelson|
|Noble Savage||Crucial Velocity||Electric Worry|
|The Face||Burning Beard||One Eye Dollar|
|Electric Worry||Noble Savage|
|X-Ray Visions||The Face|
|D.C. Sound Attack!|
There are only three songs that were played in all three sets, and the crowds love every song they play. It is not merely that they are incredible musicians and can remember all these different songs. In order to be able to shuffle the deck every night and never disappoint their fans, they have to have dozens of memorable songs that people want to hear.
Even after more than twenty five years together, the iconic band from Maryland still produces new music that is embraced by fans. Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines, and Jean-Paul Gaster have been together since the first Clutch recordings, and each new album carries the rock and roll message forward. On any given night, there will be new songs mixed in with older tunes including, and occasionally a cover tune. Every once in a while, they’ll play songs going all the way back to their first couple of albums (“Spacegrass” is from their second full-length album released in 1995 and they played it at Psycho Las Vegas this year). You never know going in what exactly you are going to hear. All you know for sure is you’re going to like it.
2019 was a great year for Clutch. Their Book of Bad Decisions tour continued, they toured Europe a couple times, hit the festival circuit, and made a number of club and theater appearances. They are certainly not slowing down – a case is easily made, in fact, that they are picking up steam. Not much is known about their 2020 schedule yet (not publicly anyway), so let me take a guess. I bet they’ll be on tour all year.
All photos by Wayne Edwards.