The blisters have healed. My voice has gone back to normal. And my neck no longer hurts every time I move. It’s only taken three weeks for my body to go back to normal after seeing The Struts in a tiny Manchester club called Gorilla.
That’s because these fine young lads from Derby really know how to put on an energetic show that takes everything out of the audience.
Far more popular across the pond than in their homeland, The Struts are vocalist Luke Spiller, guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott, and drummer Gethin Davies. They formed in 2009, and after a period of touring small clubs across the UK, released their debut album Everybody Wants in 2014. They also set about conquering the US, settling in Los Angeles in 2015 and going on to appear on late night TV shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Late Night With Seth Meyers, opening for Guns’n’Roses and The Who on dates of their recent North American tours, and supporting Foo Fighters on the US leg of their current Concrete And Gold world tour.
Meanwhile, their debut album picked up an audience in the States and the 20 headline shows promoting Everybody Wants all sold out. (Their Los Angeles debut at The Troubadour did so within 30 minutes.)
It’s a shame that a British band have to go to the US to make it big. But their homegrown fans certainly haven’t forgotten about them. Even without any promotion, and with very little radio and magazine support, The Struts’ two UK dates sold out within a day. And on show day there’s a long queue to get into the tiny Manchester club, hours before the doors open.
Luke is the driving force behind the phenomenon of The Struts. Described by some as the impossible love child of Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury, he combines the best of both. He is the King and the Queen, a Wizard, a Charlatan, an ancient Rainmaker; he owns the stage and the crowd, he takes your soul and leaves no hostages.
It’s a hot June afternoon and Gorilla is packed to capacity when the band hit the stage. They kick off with Put Your Hands Up and you immediately know it’s going to be a night of dance and joy. Five hundred raised pairs of hands can’t be wrong, as they respond to a man who turns the temperature up even further and makes the whole room jump (simply by demanding it).
“Are you sweating yet? Let me tell you, if you’re not, you’re not doing it right!” Luke screams from the stage, encouraging the fans to jump even higher, sing louder, and wave their hands continuously – creating a feeling of unity in ecstasy.
The audience consists mostly of young people, and what’s surprising is that they’re mostly disconnected from their phones. There’s a sea of hands instead of a sea of mobile phones raised in an attempt to capture the moment. In fact, they’re all in the moment, enjoying the here and now, rather than trying to get that blurry picture of their idol.
Storming through the set of funky, melodic rock gems, Luke teases and challenges the crowd with his arsenal of tricks. He calls them out, encouraging them with gestures, his voice, or just the look on his face. He’s funny and acts like he was born on stage, making other bands seem dull in comparison.
One Night Only, Primadonna, and Kiss Kiss are the highlights of the night, causing the crowd to erupt with even louder applause and singing. It’s at this point that Luke mentions they’ll be filming a live video for Body Talks, the new single from their upcoming second album.
The fans (somehow) get even more excited, dancing and screaming like there’s no tomorrow, while Luke takes the opportunity to give his label and PR reps, present in the room, a cold shower.
In terms of The Struts’ influences, the first that come to mind are Queen, The Rolling Stones, Joan Jett, Def Leppard, The Smiths, Oasis, and Aerosmith. So I’m really pleasantly surprised to hear a stellar cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark, that even involves a fan coming up on stage to dance with the band (like Courteney Cox in the original’s classic music video).
Putting that much energy into the performance on a hot day, in a steaming room, requires a lot of commitment and a bit of break. After a short encore timeout, Adam, Jet, and Gethin return. Without their charismatic leader, there’s finally time for them to showcase their ability to interact with the crowd. Impressive guitar riffs and funky basslines, along with an excellent drum solo, keep the audience occupied as they wait for the Shaman to return.
He returns in a different outfit, presenting his leather jacket proudly to the audience. It takes a lot of commitment to stay dressed like that when the temperature’s so high, let alone come back in another leather jacket.
“Shhhhh,” Luke tells the crowd, silencing them with just a hand gesture. Apparently, he’s blown the budget on his outfit and there’s none left for fireworks. So he’s come up with the idea of “man-fireworks”: the audience sit on the floor and, on his signal, jump up high while pretending to explode like sparklers.
As we’re in Manchester, The Struts invite up Tim Ogden and Josh Dewhurst of local heroes The Blossoms to join in on another cover, Rebel Rebel. It wouldn’t be fair to judge them on just one song, but the guests seem overwhelmed by the atmosphere in the venue. And, to be fair, there aren’t many bands that can keep up with Luke.
The Struts end the show with two strong hits of their own: Could Have Been Me and Where Did She Go, leaving fans hungry for more. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for their next appearance in the UK.
The Struts were supported by The Second Sons, a punk-glam band boasting catchy tunes and a ’70s look.
The Struts live @ Gorilla, Manchester, 20th June 2018
Review and photography by Edyta K