In Case You Missed It! Clutch at Empire Live By: Brasi Hyatt
Written by Staff on November 29, 2021
One of the many badges a band as long in the tooth as Maryland’s Clutch carries around
is an absolutely evident confidence. That confidence is probably best defined as “stage
presence” or charisma – but it’s more than that. It’s “the thing” musicians crushing it
night after night are paid to do. That “thing” – Clutch’s brand of irreverent, respectful,
and blue-collar couture was what the band blasted out for an extremely grateful sold-out
crowd at Empire Live on Oct. 1.
I spoke with no less than 19 concert-goers that evening, and all were in full smile mode
way before Clutch even hit the stage. By 10 pm an impressive and predominantly
bearded mix of regional musicians, middle-aged (and younger) couples, and many
bearded single male grunge millennials were nodding their heads to three opening songs
from Clutch’s breakout Transnational Speedway League (1993).
Clutch guided us all through their impressive catalog, and a 30-year history of kicking
tail. We loved it.
“I can’t believe they played three songs from (Transnational) to open the show,” a 27-
year-old Connecticut man located behind me crowed. “I’ve been to nine shows and
never heard Clutch play these songs.”
I agreed. It was my first Clutch show, and a treat to hear songs from the first Clutch
album I ever plugged in to my tape deck. Clutch has released 12 studio albums and may
be best known these days for their song “The Regulator” (2004) – which they saved for a
post aperitif. But they picked these three songs as openers for Albany. Amazing.
Other fans I talked to pre-show on that Friday night cited favorite songs they hoped to
hear, and each person I revisited quickly during the show seemed pleased. The audience
told me throughout the night stories of how Clutch had affected their lives, and how
they’d waited for quite some time to see Clutch due to recent worldwide events. This was
a concert – and also a celebration.
“I actually introduced him to Clutch,” said a pretty Clifton Park woman, approximately
age 35, pointing to her husband, who’d just arrived back at their ‘spot’ with freshly-
poured Fiddleheads, “We’ve been seeing them every time they come to the area for eight
or nine years, I think four or five shows at least.”
Clutch has another rare rock badge: their lineup of Tim Sult (lead guitar), Dan Maines
(bass), Jean-Paul Gaster (drums), and Neil Fallon (vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards)
has remained unchanged since they debuted three decades ago. Their long relationship
writing together shows up on stage. It’s their ‘thing’.
Great news from the night: Fallon, perhaps one of the best performers I’ve ever seen on
stage, promised a fresh return to Empire Live soon.
“…in eighteen months. We’re very grateful to all of you that have followed us for the last
30 years,” he said from stage.
Note: Opening act Stoner is a perfect fit for Clutch. Slightly reminiscent of Monster
Magnet, the blues-based tones, with a crunch-and-click underpinning, made Stoner a
perfect appetizer for Clutch’s hour long set and subsequent three song encore.