Review: Clutch, The Sword at The Vogue 

Clutch at the Vogue (slideshow)
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Clutch at the Vogue (slideshow)

Clutch at the Vogue with The Sword.

By Mitchell Miller

Click to View 20 slides

After an extended period in which they focused more on the blues side of their sound, Maryland band Clutch have brought back the groove that's made them underground legends and a touring force.

Playing for a sold-out crowd Sunday at The Vogue, the quartet went early and often to tracks from their 10th and latest album, Earth Rocker. The title track is quintessential Clutch - singer Neil Fallon barking and gesturing like an end-times preacher while drummer Jean-Paul Gaster and bassist Dan Maines lock down an impenetrable groove and guitarist Tim Sult coloring it all with liquid lines.

With the exception of the open, lonesome-sounding drift of "Gone Cold," Earth Rocker mostly sticks to the tunesome velocity of its namesake. "D.C. Sound Attack" was a cowbell-laden jam a quarter of the way into the show while "Crucial Velocity" and "Unto the Breach" reach punk speeds without sacrificing any melody.

Clutch's blues period in the 2000s was essentially ignored in this performance, with the exception of the thundering "Mice and Gods" from 2005's Robot Hive/Exodus. But that was a transitory release anyway from perhaps their greatest album, 2004's Blast Tyrant. The crowd did indeed go wild when they busted out "The Mob Goes Wild" from that collection. The exceptionally funky and roaring "Cypress Grove" also got an airing.

They saved some of their earliest material for the end, including the concert staple "Spacegrass" from their self-titled second album. Equally eccentric and foreboding, it's a prime example of just how unclassifiable Clutch have been over most of their long and distinguished career. It's a bit of a shame they don't revisit their metal beginnings more, since their abstract take on the genre has truly stood the test of time and influenced countless acts that have followed. But it's difficult to complain about a band still making relevant music 23 years after starting.

The Sword offered a solid warm-up set for the concert. The Austin, Tex. longhairs aren't groove-oriented like Clutch so much as purveyors of an unsubtle brand of hammering, mid-tempo metal. They often found the sweet spot in their breakdown-laden compositions and worked it until the crowd started moving and throwing fists in the air.

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