Clutch, Killswitch Engage, and Cro-Mags JM make no Bad Decisions in Pittsburgh

A Clutch concert could easily come with a guarantee. You will see great bands, you will have a great time, and you will never see the same show twice. Such are the facts of a Clutch show as witnessed many times and most recently at Stage AE Pittsburgh.

Clutch always brings top acts to support them, absolutely no fluff ever. Pittsburgh’s date was no different with the ultra entertaining Killswitch Engage and the legendary Cro-Mags. It was a great genre blending evening that had something for everyone.

The Cro-Mags JM started the show with a rip-roaring rendition of classic hardcore punk. Despite there being two current versions of the Cro-Mags out there, lead singer John Joseph McGowan is most widely accepted as the voice of the Cro-Mags due to his work on  (The Age of QuarrelAlpha Omega, and Near Death Experience). One thing is for sure, you won’t find a better dude who is so energetic, uplifting, and positive. He always interacts with ‘friends’ (he does not call you a fan, you are a friend) after shows and if you are super lucky he will tell you some stories from the old days. At this last date, he told us a doozy about playing with Biohazard and GWAR involving some altered states with the GWAR heads!

John Joseph is a helluva performer and gives it his all. Despite having re-popped his hernia on this tour, McGowan would never let you see that onstage. His Pittsburgh performance was otherworldly (on the same par with the performance he gave opening for Hatebreed here earlier this year) drawing in any metalheads who may not be pro-hardcore and making them Cro-Mag converts. Mackie Jayson is the drummer from that most influential record The Age of Quarrel and his contribution was priceless along with the ultra-talented bassist Mike Dijan and guitarist AJ Novello they combine to time travel your ears to the heyday of early hardcore.

Killswitch Engage is, of course, a headliner in their own right. Ever since Jesse Leach rejoined to handle vocal duties they seem to be on an upward trajectory that cannot be stopped. Not only do they exude energy from every pour, but they also play with pinpoint precision. Much of this stems from the writing and production prowess of Adam Dutkiewicz, the lead guitarist. He is not only technically perfect he is an absolute madman on stage. Joel Stroetzel [rhythm guitar], Mike D’Antonio [bass], Justin Foley [drums], are also technically proficient in their own right and sync perfectly. What many technical bands lack though is feel and emotion and that is something KSE does not lack especially with Leach at the forefront.

The setlist included Strength of the Mind, This Fire, The Arms of Sorrow, My Curse, I Am Broken Too, Alone I Stand, Beyond the Flames, Unleashed, Hate by Design, Always, My Last Serenade, This Is Absolution, Rose of Sharyn, The End of Heartache, In Due Time, and of course the Dio cover Holy Diver.

Before Clutch came out to rock the masses, a lot of the audience members were discussing how many shows they had attended overall and even how many they had just seen in the previous weeks. To say that Clutch has a loyal following is an understatement. Being that Clutch has been playing Pittsburgh from the early, early days, this city is privileged to see them since then and pretty much every year they tour.

What makes Clutch so loyalist worthy? Well, it has to be their roots in blues, but there is more than that. JP Gaster is arguably one of the best drummers in rock today who can play almost effortlessly, keeping that steady beat that is essential to any Clutch tune. Of course, that gruff vocal of Neil Fallon is unmistakable and his nightly delivery, part preacher/part ringmaster is so fun to watch and sing along with. Bass player Dan Maines quietly keeps the thump going to Gaster’s rhythm and last but not least are the masterful riffs of Tim Sult, a guitarist who utilizes simplicity yet intricacy to the fullest.

What many fans absolutely love about Clutch is that they play a different set each night. That is a testament to the vast amount of quality material that the band has produced since 1991. In Pittsburgh they slammed through Gimme the Keys, Vision Quest, Firebirds!, Slow Hole to China, The Mob Goes Wild, Profits of Doom, Sucker for the Witch, Noble Savage, Decapitation Blues, Willie Nelson, The Soapmakers, Precious and Grace (ZZ Top), Crucial Velocity, Spacegrass, A Shogun Named Marcus, Electric Worry, and X-Ray Vision. Those last six songs were exhausting, they were that good… just so many grooves stacked on top of one another.

Clutch has announced another leg of touring with Dropkick Murphys no less along with Hatebreed, Amigo The Devil and Russ Rankin (Good Riddance). Dates can be found here: and Pittsburgh residents who want to catch them again, or missed them in the first place can take the short drive to Erie on Sept. 21.