I’ve not heard much about hard rockers Lionize before tonight, I know they’re signed to Clutch’s Label Weathermaker Music on which they’ve released ‘The Voyage EP’ this year. They’ve been on tour with Clutch a couple of times and include Clutch’s Tim Sult as an occasional guitarist in their line-up. After that basic research I figured it was safe to assume from that they would have a similar sound to Clutch and decided to leave some air of mystery for the actual gig.
I wasn’t wrong their sound had more than a passing similarity to that of the headliners, which is no bad thing. A solid beat pounded out by Chase Lapp was the driving force behind their set, which whilst in no shortage of passion to their sound there was a notable lack of movement on stage, which would be further highlighted when Valient Thorr took to the stage later on.
Singer Nathan Bergman has a hell of a voice, expressive and emotional, a pleasure to listen too. However, despite some vigorous foot stomping and leading the crowd with some clapping he did spend most of the set glued to the mic, with minimal interaction. Indeed, at one point I’m sure Tim Sult joined them onstage for a few tracks but nothing was said.
The excellent bass work and Hammond Organ worked well in the set and there was a point when they built the tempo up into a swirling crescendo of almost psychedelic dizziness. They warmed up the crowd very well and were met with generous applause from the still relatively small academy crowd.
Coming out to the Final Countdown by Europe, Southern Rock/Metallers Valient Thorr were a revelation, I’d heard their name before and that they were good live. I also noted that apart from the singer all the band assume the surname Thorr like some kind of nordic Ramones, despite of course neither being Nordic or punk.
I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest, a huge contrast in their stage presence to both Lionize and later Clutch. They had so much energy and presence on stage I often found myself just standing and watching with a big grin on my face. Singer Valient Himself regaled the crowd between songs with stories about watching out for friends turning out to be robots, escaping from our respective countries and broken governments’ there was an electric unpredictable energy on stage.
Every single member of the band was part of the performance, bouncing around on stage and throwing shapes like they’d probably downed a good few cans of monster earlier in the evening. This was the last show on the tour and they were loving every second of it. Whilst not as musically impressive as Lionize or Clutch their performance and energy more than made up for that, or possibly overshadowed it.
They succeeded in gaining some pretty impressive crowd reactions and responses, especially when Valient went into a longish story about Manchester’s Goths, their love of a good hot curry and downing pints of cider. They continued to gain huge pops from the crowd with their interactions and their tribute to Lemmy got them some extra heartfelt applause and the crowd were clapping along to most of their set with gusto.
Compared to that when Clutch took to the stage their performance at first felt a touch subdued, not that the audience in the now rammed Academy seemed to notice. Rather than the performance side of it Clutch let the music do the talking with Tim Sult on guitar and Dan Maines on Bass remaining quite static on stage, channelling all their energies into the groove of the set.
The sound for their set was fantastic, but a few earlier technical issues did see them lose a little bit of momentum early on. Neil Fallon later remarking they’d broken more strings tonight that the rest of the tour put together. Indeed, with the relatively static performance and technical issues it felt for the first few songs as though Valient Thorr might have put on the better set of the evening.
Clutch however took all the technical issues in their stride and their relentless unwavering energy they very soon had the crowd dancing throughout the academy. This was a commanding, confident performance which was expertly paced so that the set just continued to build and build until the energy in the room was off the charts. By the time the band hit the track ‘10001110101’ they’d pretty much nailed it. Huge crowd reactions were the order of the day, finishing up their set with the distinctive cowbell of ‘Quick Death in Texas’ the crowd were dancing all over the venue.
The lights weren’t on; they’d not played ‘Electric Worry’ yet; so, the only real question was not if, rather when they would encore. The crowd were chanting ‘we want more’ loudly, and were so energised that even a roadie carrying a guitar across stage prompted a roar of applause an unsigned band would happily sell their granny for. Sure, enough, Clutch saved the best for last and finished up the evening with a particularly rousing rendition of ‘Electric Worry’ swiftly followed by ‘X-Ray Visions’.
All in all, this was a fantastic gig and all three bands were fantastic: Clutch were absolutely on fire tonight with Neil Fallon prowling the stage confidently; Valient Thorr put on an incredibly good show which no doubt won over a few new fans tonight; Lionize went down well with the crowd and it’s easy to see why they’ve toured with clutch so many times before.
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