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Music DVD Review: Clutch – Live At The 9:30 (2-DVD)

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It’s become an increasingly popular trend over the past few years for veteran rock acts to give loyal fans the special live treat of playing a complete beloved album of theirs in its entirety live, and then some.

311, The Pixies, Judas Priest, Bruce Springsteen, the Lemonheads, and most recently Megadeth, among others have given their following a live take of classic albums, including respectively, Grassroots, Doolittle, British Steel, Born To Run, It’s A Shame About Ray, and Rust In Peace.

Last December, the mighty Maryland hard rockers Clutch gave fans in select cities the special holiday treat of performing its entire 13-track 1995 classic self-titled second album live, with some select new tunes from its 2009 studio release Strange Cousins From The West and a couple of other oldies rounding out most set lists. With concerts as rare as these, you bet some high-tech video cameras were rolling on select dates.

Released on May 11, well ahead of its latest world headlining tour which takes place in June and July, Live At The 9:30 is a 90-minute, 19-song concert double DVD that captures the quartet’s entire December 28, 2009, performance at the legendary 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. on one disc, with a nearly two-hour road movie called Fortune Tellers Make A Killing Nowadays on the second DVD.

When Clutch first played the 9:30 Club nearly 20 years ago, it was down the street from its current location. No matter where this great live band plays though, fans will come to see them in droves and, on this sold out night, the hometown feel of the performance was evident.

Starting out with four newer songs from the Strange Cousins, including the Zeppelin-esque “50,000 Unstoppable Watts,” and the blues-edged rock of the reflective “Struck Down” on any other night would be a badass start to a Clutch show, but here, acted as a sort of intro to what the fans came to hear.

With Neil Fallon leading his audience to loudly sing along to such favorites as “Escape From The Prison Planet,” “Spacegrass,” and “Animal Farm,” the band put on a stellar and raw performance of these and all 13 self-titled classics. And though Fallon doesn’t sing with the rough and gruff style of his younger days, it has aged well like the fine wine he sings about in “Big News I” and, quite frankly, sounds better than ever. His guitar skills, including slide guitar, aren’t too shabby either, as on the 19th song of the night, show closer “Gravel Road” (a Mississippi Fred McDowell cover).

The only slight issue one could possibly have with the show is that except for Fallon, the rest of the band didn’t show off much energy. It’s more of an observation than a complaint though because the quartet almost always let’s Fallon do the singing and interaction with the audience.

Quiet guitar hero Tim Sult ran his mastery of guitar riffs through an early ‘60s Les Paul Gibson, some Marshall amps, and went crazy on the wah-wah pedal at times during the band’s note-perfect set. Camera shots and angles of him and the band were kind to the eyes during the show as well, not constantly switching views or focusing too long on any one of the four band members.

On the second DVD, which sees the band on the road in North America in 2009, you get the history of the band’s formation from the members themselves, interviews with fans and crew members, many of which are longtime fans themselves, and are treated to cameos from peers and tourmates from the hard rock world.

For instance, Fu Manchu guitarist Bob Balch is seen complimenting Tim Sult’s “subtle” guitar style, while Nate Bergman, vocalist/guitarist for recent Clutch tour openers Lionize, also praises the band’s style and influence they have on his own band. During the L.A. stop, System of A Down’s bassist Shavo Odadjian said Clutch was his favorite band in the world and that they gave his band its first tour ever with them and Slayer back in the 1990s.

The true gem of this release is found on the second DVD’s bonus section. It features four performances from Clutch’s earliest days, including raw footage of the band’s second-ever show on October 7, 1991, in D.C., which occurred just two months after forming as a band and officially calling themselves Clutch – it was strangely called Glut Trip before then.

It’s only three songs and the audio and video quality is subpar by today’s standards, but it is good enough for any old school Clutch fan to treasure. The last of the bonus tracks is “Wicker,” performed on its first U.S. tour opening for Jawbox in 1992. Ironically, Jawbox’s J. Robbins would produce two Clutch albums over a decade later, Robot Hive/Exodus and last year’s Strange Cousins From The West in particular.

In all, you get about 200 minutes of pure Clutch, which is more than enough to satisfy any serious fanatic of one of the hardest working and still under the radar hard rock bands in the business.

Live At The 9:30 is out now on the band’s own imprint, Weathermaker Music. For more info, go to Clutch’s official website at pro-rock.com and myspace page.

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.