It seems ‘Everyone Wants …. The Struts’ as they return from the U.S. for their sold-out ‘One Night Only’ gig in London.
Tonight is being seen as a make or break gig for The Struts, two years since they played their last show in the UK, before moving to the U.S. to try their fortune there. An astute move, they now regularly sell out shows, including the legendary Troubadour in West Hollywood and have supported legends of the world of rock such as Mötley Crüe, opened the final shows for Guns N’ Roses, and played in front of 75,000 people in Paris for The Who. They are seen in the U.S. as one of today’s most exciting British bands. Their homeland has been slower on the uptake, but word has been starting to filter through here. Despite having struggled to fill Dingwalls in Camden just a year ago, such has been the demand for tickets in London this time round that the venue had to be upgraded from The Garage to the larger capacity Electric Ballroom in Camden.
This hard-working Derbyshire band, comprising frontman Luke Spiller, guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott, and drummer Gethin Davies, have been together since 2009. Despite having the songs, the musicianship, the stage presence and touring incessantly, support from the U.K. music press and radio just wasn’t forthcoming for their debut album in 2014.
A change of record label and a move to the U.S., brought about a reissue of the album, re-mastered and re-recorded, with five additional tracks to accompany and reinforce the band’s growing popularity in the United States. News of The Struts’ success there has since been filtering back to this side of the pond.
The venue is already almost filled to capacity when the Doncaster-based band, Bang Bang Romeo, take to the stage. A hard-working band, they have been constantly gigging on the UK Indie and festival circuits over the last year, receiving rave reviews. 2017 has become a big year for the band and it’s clear that many of their loyal, growing fan base are there early to catch their set. Fronted by the charismatic Anastasia Walker, her immense and soulful vocals along with her 1960s retro style of large round tinted shades and shimmering cape, bring to mind the likes of Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks and Grace Slick. Anastasia’s powerful vocals and confident stage presence are well balanced by standout riffs and guitar solos from Ross Cameron and skilful drum work from Richard Gartland.
The highpoint of the set is their latest single “Natural Born Astronauts”, an exceptional, upbeat song with a huge, cinematic melody. If only mainstream music radio would catch onto the wealth of young talent evident in bands like Bang Bang Romeo, a song of this calibre would surely be a chart hit. Often described as a harder-edged Fleetwood Mac, their sound certainly has a 60’s/70’s groove merged with heavier, soulful rock and a hint of the blues.
With their debut album in the pipeline, judging by the music and their performance tonight, there is little doubt they will soon be much in demand as a headline band.
Even if there was plenty of enthusiasm for Bang Bang Romeo’s set, this is soon surpassed by the excitement from the crowd as the lights dim and the voice of frontman Luke Spiller comes over the PA,” …. let’s start the show, strike up the band and you’ll see that Everybody Wants … The Struts!”, referring to the title of their debut album. The band, excluding frontman, Luke Spiller, make a big entrance, launching into the intro of their new single “Put Your Hands Up” to the obvious delight of the crowd, who cheer loudly and bounce along. The cheering increases as Spiller joins centre stage, looking every inch the glam rock star; glittery make-up, flamboyantly dressed in red satin, sequins and fringes. All appear captivated by the theatricality of the set opener, from the masses of teenage girls crowded around the front of the stage, to the number of grey-haired and balding men, hanging further back. Spiller doesn’t hide his obvious deference to celebrated showmen, echoing the dance moves and swagger of Mick Jagger and the flair and posturing of Freddie Mercury.
From the start, Spiller has the entire crowd in the palm of his hand. When he asks them to “put your hands up”, as it says in the chorus, they do exactly that. The way he works the crowd, his energy and enthusiasm is so infectious, it’s hard not to join in. The set includes a number of songs from their debut album, originally released in the U.K., “Dirty Sexy Money”, “Let’s Make This Happen Tonight”, and “Put Your Money On Me”, as well as “These Times Are Changing” and “The Ol” “Switcheroo”, tracks added to the re-released U.S. version. It seems fans on this side of The Atlantic have clearly kept up with the U.S. releases, as most of the crowd know the lyrics and sing along.
Although slightly grittier, vocally, Luke Spiller has a similar power, dynamic vocal range and tone to Freddie Mercury. This is particularly evident in their current single, the anthemic “One Night Only”, with its strong Queen vibes and a compelling chorus you can’t help but sing along to. It’s a strong track, with superb band harmonies and, if this is a sign of what’s to come in the new album, it’s very promising. In “I Just Know/Roll Up”, Spiller takes the Freddie Mercury references a step further with his camp delivery and flamboyant gestures, performing with gusto, as though he’s playing to an arena crowd. Spiller’s trademark rolling of his ‘r’s add to the theatricality of his all-out performance.
Including a couple of new songs as teasers from their new album, due for release in 2018, The Struts demonstrate that, for the often difficult second album, they haven’t lost the knack of writing the catchy songs with big choruses that fans have come to expect. “Primadonna” bears more than a passing resemblance to The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar”, catchy lyrics and a chorus you’ll find yourself instantly singing along to. Making its live debut, “Who Am I?” is another proudly retro rock and roll song, harking back to the 70s, with a nod to Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”. There’s a reason great tunes are great tunes and, incorporating such classic rock riffs into your songs seems to work for the younger fans as well as the older fans who enjoy the nostalgia such tunes evoke.
A cover of Oasis’ “Supersonic” to finish the set before an encore seems a strange choice when The Struts have so many other songs they could have chosen from their debut album, but it goes down well with the crowd.
The encore starts with “Could Have Been Me”, a song about the band’s struggle to succeed, with an anthemic chorus which the crowd sings with such enthusiasm that Luke Spiller seems genuinely taken by surprise as he beams at the crowd from the stage. An extended version of “Where Did She Go?” follows, an epic finale, with Spiller continuing to interact with the crowd, getting all to kneel down on the ground before jumping up together at the chorus.
Tonight, The Struts prove that their move to the U.S. was an astute decision. Their time touring and honing their craft in the U.S. has been well spent. Even when the going has been tough, with little recognition in the U.K, they’ve remained resilient and it now appears to be paying off. They have returned more polished as a band, maybe a little over the top and larger than life, but this is perhaps what many live performances lack today. The band works hard at writing and performing infectiously catchy songs with big choruses and massive hooks, with equal attention to their showmanship. All members of the band made a costume change before the encore and Spiller made another during the set, each costume as well considered and flamboyant as the next.
With their melody-driven anthemic songs and consummate frontman, The Struts are very much suited to arena stages. They may even have the potential to bring rock music back to the forefront of the music industry, perfect for mainstream radio play and the ability to appeal to younger music fans. It can surely only be a matter of time before U.K. radio stations pick up on them.
Following tonight’s show, The Struts are heading off to support The Rolling Stones on their European tour, then returning to the U.S, to join The Foo Fighters for the first leg of their tour there. This proves that the legends of rock and roll have already taken notice of The Struts and it’s high time the British music fans and media sat up and took notice too.
Tonight it became clearer than ever that Everybody wants The Struts.