CLUTCH + THE PICTUREBOOKS @ Élysée Montmartre (Paris, 15.12.18)

Sylvain GolvetWritten by Live Reviews

CLUTCHs new album Book of Bad Decisions has good chances to end in 2018’s album picks, yet we are presently assessing its ability to be a stage sure shot. We got a bit of answer this weekend in Paris, while the band took the stage in a sold-out and amped up Élysée Montmartre. (PHOTOS: Sylvain Golvet)

I arrive a bit late and missed most of BALLS OUT‘s set. Just like their name suggests, they don’t fall under the soft bands category, with the bassist/singer’s hoarse vocals reminding me of a good old Five Horse Johnson. Until next time!

Unfortunately, The Inspector Cluzo are missing on tonight’s bill, which is a bummer as the Landais power duo always deliver. However, another bass-free power duo promises to deliver the goods anyway: THE PICTUREBOOKS. I first saw them at Desertfest Belgium back in 2014, where the German put on a highly driven and memorable show. Four years later, the recipe remains the same: their heartfelt binary blues gets propelled by their minimal gear — two voices, an electro-acoustic guitar and a drumkit with only two hanging toms, a snare drum and no cymbals. That’s it. Yet the band delivers sheer and catchy songs, caught between primitive blues and Native chants, with electrifying melodies that quickly make the crowd tap their feet along. Oldies and new tracks blend perfectly, delighting the Élysée Montmartre’s compact crowd. Can’t wait to see them headlining la Boule Noire in May 2019.  

Now off to the main course, with CLUTCH‘s 4-star rock’n’roll feast. The band keeps playing larger and larger venues in front of a growing audience, and France has become a prerequisite in every European tour they do. One could say it happens to be a belated success for these hard-working gentlemen who have been around for more than 30 years. Proud of their new baby, the US foursome are more than determined to present it on stage, and for good reason: the likes of “In Walks Barbarella”, “How to Shake Hands” and “Hot Bottom Feeder” prove to be proper live bangers, just like the fuel-driven likes of “Weird Times” and “Ghoul Wrangler”.

Yet despite the showcased energy and good vibes, Neil Fallon seems to be sort of running on fumes and doesn’t fill the stage as he usually does. A slight unfitness that fails to hide his comrades’ lack of charisma on stage. On top of that, the PA isn’t the most adequate for the band, with a lack of medium that reveals a rather restrained and sharp guitar sound that won’t satisfy the finest ears. To end all this, if Live Nation’s stuck-up promoters intended to ruin the vibe by forbidding crowdsurfing, well, be sure they failed 100%. Life followed its course  and  kids weren’t for most of them ready to be told what to do.

Don’t mind me pointing at those dark points: we’re having a great time, all the more when the old tunes “Spacegrass” and “Big News (I & II)” echo in the venue, bringing back to mind CLUTCH’s funky, jam-inducing influences and freeing the band from the previous songs’ restrained feel. Now let’s hope the boys will give their all next June on the Hellfest’s main stage! 

Last modified: January 9, 2019