Friday, November 19, 2010

Concert Review: Clutch (and Black Label Society) at Comerica Theatre

Okay, so maybe that headline is a little deceiving. Black Label Society were the headliners at Comerica Theatre last night, but the main reason I was there was to see veteran Maryland rockers Clutch. Surprisingly, based on the crowd reaction and a few conversations I had with other concertgoers, I was not alone in that regard.

Attendance was noticeably sparse at this show, probably due to tickets that topped $50 after service charges. Hell, I'll admit that I probably wouldn't have dropped that much on a ticket, especially when you can see Clutch play twice as long for half the price on one of their frequent headlining tours. Still, the fans who did show up were treated to another excellent, if abbreviated, performance by Clutch.

The band opened with a pair of songs from last year's Strange Cousins From the West before breaking into the title track from their 2001 album Pure Rock Fury. At this point, the crowd was chanting for "Spacegrass," and perhaps by complete coincidence, the band complied. The unexpected highlight for me was the inclusion of three songs from my favorite Clutch album, 2004's Blast Tyrant. The band actually played songs from seven different albums (assuming you count "One Eye Dollar" as a Jam Room song), which is pretty impressive for a 10-song set. It would've been fantastic to see them play longer, but Clutch did about as much as they could with the time they were allotted.

After such a strong showing by Clutch, it seemed inevitable that Black Label Society would be a letdown, and unfortunately, they were. There's no denying Zakk Wylde's skills as a guitar virtuoso, but his songwriting leaves a little to be desired. BLS was far from offensive, but after seeing a band as great as Clutch, BLS just seemed a little too obvious, for lack of a better term. The band's grimy take on arena rock seems to be aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator, epitomized by the douche nozzle in the Slipknot T-shirt one row in front of us who alternated between making out with his undeservedly hot girlfriend and flailing his arms around in some sort of weird attempt at dancing.

By the time Wylde sat down at a piano for a cringe-inducing, quasi-hair metal finalé, we were making our way towards the exits. Maybe Neil Fallon and company can sit down with him for a few Songwriting 101 sessions on this tour.

Clutch set list
50,000 Unstoppable Watts
Struck Down
Pure Rock Fury
Profits of Doom
The Mob Goes Wild
The Soapmakers
The Regulator
Electric Worry
One Eye Dollar

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