Mastodon and Clutch Show Metal’s Ability to Both Rock and Pull on Heartstrings @ The Fox Theater


On Tuesday April 28, Mastodon and Clutch came to the Fox Theater in Oakland for the Missing Link Tour. Clutch opened the double bill with their punk influenced sounds and Mastodon closed the show with a more traditional metal sounding show, with all the typically intense guitar solos and beautiful transitions.

The vibe was friendly and easy going throughout the show. Although metal shows may be associated with angry people dressed in black garb, my experience has always been that the shows are pretty relaxed. During the sets, the intensity of the music on stage is so visceral that besides the smallish, yet consistently occupied mosh pit, most of the audience is attentively watching. The music tends to suck up and process all the angry energy that most listeners have at one time or another, leaving the person to enjoy the intricate musicianship and the beautiful surroundings of the Fox Theater.

Having never heard Clutch before, I was excited to see what they would be like, and they were great. Clutch’s decor was minimal, but lead singer’s Neil Fallon’s strong stage presence was undeniable as he engaged in light banter with the audience. Clutch mixed more recent songs like “Unto the Breach” with older songs like “Pure Rock Fury” and “Escape From Prison Planet.” The set opened with a sound that could be characterized as Metallica crossed with Refused and grew more relaxed and less punk driven as the set moved. At some points that bands sound would divert from the album performances and sound more noodley, like a bluesier version of 70s Black Sabbath.

Fallon and his bandmates were always in control, strutting across the barren stage with just a banner bearing their band’s name as the sole decoration. Nothing distracting the audience from their music. The set moved briskly, with few solos or indulgences.

IMG_20150428_201334They performed two new songs: “Decapitation Blues” and “X-Ray Visions” off their yet to be named album that’s due out in September. Those definitely got the crowd fired up and the mosh pit dancing harder. Spanning their entire catalog, Clutch closed with One Eye Dollar and Electric worry, accenting their ability to transform their blues infused tracks (on the album) to a more rocking version for a live audience. Throughout, Clutch carried themselves as much the equals of Mastodon, the current darlings of metal and left the crowd wanting more.

When Mastodon came on, after a short set break, they stepped the showmanship up a notch. Mastodon’s music was accompanied by a bright, but not distracting light show that varied and grooved with their music; and a bright banner depicting their album cover from Once More Around the Sun, their latest and most easy to listen to album. True to the theme, Mastodon opened with “Tread Lightly” and “Once More Around the Sun.” Then transitioned to older fare like “Aqua Dementia” off the album Leviathan. The majority of their songs stemmed from those two albums and Mastodon never let off the gas. Lead singer Troy Sanders stepped up on the sub woofer while rocking out, and every band member got a turn in the spotlight.

On Tuesday, Mastodon’s musicianship was unrivaled. Their violently stated, gravely voiced lyrics came across beautifully as guitarist Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds exchange great riffs, each getting intense, lengthy solos throughout the show. “High Road” and “The Czar” were joyously indulged in and teased out for maximum effect. Each song was punctuated by terrific drumming, powerful guitars and vocals. At one point (I think) for “Black Tongue” and “Ember City,” Hinds donned a two headed guitar, drawing a roar from the crowd.

As the show wore on, Mastodon’s power and energy only grew, like all great shows, Mastodon gave the impression that they could play for hours longer. After winding down, with ears still ringing, drummer Brann Dailor was left alone on stage and in a gentle voice sincerely thanked the audience for attending. for letting Mastodon play music and told them to stay safe. In light of the turmoil going on in Baltimore at the time, it was a touching, soft hearted moment perfectly illustrating the divide between the way the music sounds and its purpose, similar to that of most art, to provide comfort and educate during troubling times.