o2 Institute Birmingham 16.12.16
WOW, two gigs in Birmingham in two weeks – I must be desperate to review a live show, especially after the nightmare I had getting into Birmingham last week! Truth is, we got invited to interview the amazing Valient Thorr (thanks Napalm Records) and these guys are insanely good live and their music speaks volumes! More on them in a bit, along with our interview link.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear, up until recently, tonight’s venue in Birmingham, known as ‘The Institute’ was called just that but got re-branded as part of the o2 franchise, so I can be forgiven for going to the o2 Academy right, right? No, I’m a douche and should have read the details right! I did manage to get to the correct venue in time to interview the band and I even got invited up to watch sound check!
Being my first time here, I was slightly dubious and didn’t quite know what to expect – this place is massive and like a rabbit warren so you could easily get lost here. The main room, where tonight’s gig was being held is great and I’m pretty sure that once upon a time it use to be a grand theatre, complete with overhead viewing galleries which are still accessible and does give the spectator a great view point. Being a theatre, the acoustics in the room are great too! Apparently, the lighting here can be a little hit and miss but although there was a lot of smoke, I had no complaints about the lighting tonight, which is a rarity and some what of a relief, seeing as getting here is a complete ball ache!
With our interview all wrapped up with Valient Thorr, it was time to get ready for Lionize who were up first. We’re familiar with these guys as we first saw them on Metal Hammers ‘Lord of the Riffs Tour II’ which is where we also discovered Planet of Zeus, incidentally (amazing band).
A little about Lionize, they’ve been around a long time and are multi diverse in their musical style. Their early stuff is very reggae orientated but as they’ve developed, their style has become less reggae and more rock. A contributing factor may be the fact that they were signed to Clutch’s record label, but it now states that they’re on their own label ‘Wheatons Finest Music’? As stated last time, we prefer the bands earlier material however, tonight’s performance was fun though, almost as fun as Nate’s stage outfit – almost! Wow!
Valient Thorr however, are now my new favourite band to watch live! These guys are a group of energetic, talented musicians, who are intelligent and seriously passionate about the music they produce. They are also a lot of fun and don’t appear to take life too seriously. Now on their seventh album ‘Old Salt’ which was released in July and is a great body of work that they’ve only just toured in Europe and the UK. From what we can gather, these guys maybe gearing up to tour the US in 2017, so fans over there need to check these guys out, should they come rolling into your home town.
I also get the impression after talking to these guys in our interview, that this group are constantly creating new music, so I doubt we’ll have to wait too long before they release new material. Also, now knowing the kind of bands these guys tend to tour with, here in the UK, the likes of Mastodon, for example, I don’t think we’ll have too long a wait either before they grace our shores again! Watch the interview with Valient Thorr.
We last saw Clutch back in 2013 in Nottingham, when they first started touring the release of their most commercially viable album to date ‘Earth Rocker’. Since then, the band have been back here every year and have also been able to release another album ‘Psychic Warfare’ which includes the hit new single ‘Xray Visions’ which we love. According to Spotify, the band have also released a lot of their older albums this year, such as ‘La Curandera’- I may be wrong, but I’m sure this is older material, feel free to correct me if I am!
Now, back in 2013, I immediately got the impression that Clutch are a band who like to get on with a set with little or no interaction with the crowd, which is fair when you consider the number of tracks they cram into it. Some say Neil is a great front man, which we agree with, but the rest of the band are very much in the moment, especially Dan and Tim! Tonight was very different to that show back in 2013 and a complete contradiction to peoples general consensus! Neil literally lived up to his ‘great front man’ status! The rest of the band did what they are meant to do, perform like a unit and allow their front man to entertain the crowd!
And what a crowd too – the venue was nearly at capacity, so you could say it was a sell out! Trying to take pictures was hard though, I’ve never found it difficult to stand up whilst photographing a gig before but the bass from Jean-Paul’s kick drum was so strong, it proved a challenge but one I was willing to accept mind!
We love this band and everything they do, so tonight’s biggest achievement was that we managed to actually say hello to Neil Fallon in the corridor on the way to Valient Thorr’s dressing room and he even said hello back… I know it’s wrong, but everyone’s allowed a fan-boy moment.
This was my last gig of 2016, so I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the bands, venues, promoters and most importantly our readers and I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year! See you in 2017!
Review and Photography by Jay Hawkins (JJ Photography UK)