A treat for fans of Clutch, Germantown, Maryland’s greatest rock band, was performed on Friday, Sept. 17, at the Signal in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was the nearest the band will get to Georgia while on its 30 Years of Rock & Roll tour.

Fans were treated to a 21-song set culled from more than a dozen albums from Clutch’s career. Having last performed on the stage of the Signal in April of 2018, it was a welcome return for the band’s fans; but with the pandemic of the last two years, it was even more exciting than usual.

Vocalist Neil Fallon took the opportunity early in the set to recognize the audience as being unquestionably “the best of the tour,” due to their frantic cheers, wild applause, and other celebratory gestures in response to the songs being aired. As the group had previously played festivals in Alaska, Virginia, and Pennsylvania on this tour, this was not taken lightly by the crowd.

Having seen Clutch over a dozen times myself prior to last Friday’s concert, I can affirm that the band members always have the audience on their side. Due to years of touring and releasing great music, they have certainly earned it. A Clutch show is not a mere concert or entertainment opportunity; every show performed by Clutch is an event, a happening, a celebration of their music’s power and might. If you witness the band in action, you will always remember it.

The band was formed by guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines, and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster. Fallon, who had attended the same high school, replaced their original singer. The band has been this consistent lineup every since, though two albums between 2005 and 2008, were augmented by keyboardist Mick Schauer. Clutch is a self-contained unit, and the name of the band’s web domain, www.pro-rock.com, is an appropriate statement of purpose.

Clutch opened Friday’s concert with the title track from the 2001 album, “Pure Rock Fury.” It was during that album tour that I first saw them live, along with my teaching friend and colleague Kevin Fore. The song is a Hard Rock rallying cry, introduced with an ascending set of chords from Sult and a jazz-influenced drum fill flurry courtesy of Gaster. It then explodes into a rapid wordplay from Fallon, one on which he is joined by the audience.

“Pure Rock Fury, a solution is so clear/Calling all humans and able volunteers,” Fallon belted into his hand-held, highball microphone, eyes tightly closed, while the band rhythmically slammed and drove the song home with a bluesy, wah-wah effected lead guitar line. The song took the band from zero to 60 in mere seconds.

This was followed by “The Mob Goes Wild” from the 2004 album, “Blast Tyrant,” a fan favorite that again invites sing-alongs all around. The song was written at the beginning of the Iraq War and its chorus decries the price paid by enlisted soldiers engaged in a political military campaign. It is ironically one of the band’s most buoyant songs while having its heaviest lyrical message. From a that perspective, it is a peer to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” but it has even more melodic hooks, making it easy to miss the meaning of its words.

Deep track and fan favorite, “The House that Peterbilt,” from 1995’s “Clutch” came third, and it was loudly welcomed by everyone. Sung in first person perspective, it details the worldview of a trucker on a C.B. radio, willing to ride the conversation from sea to shining sea.

“A preacher, a trucker, a highroller/A holy-rolling preacher-rolling trucker,” Fallon bellowed in character. Coupled with the doomy riff that underscores the song, it is a salute the trucking industry, one which keeps our country running day and night.

By the time “Noble Savage,” from 2017’s “Psychic Warfare,” was played, the energy level had been steadily climbing. When the band played this barnburner, we all sang or shouted the chorus back at Fallon, trying in vain to overwhelm the sound of the band’s amplification.

“Unapologetic lifer for Rock and Roll!” we all sang. It was clear to me that we all meant it.

Alex McGill is an educator and musician living in Haralson County.

Alex McGill is an educator and musician living in Haralson County.