Every so often, a band comes along that the online music photography community opines as a ‘must have’ in the portfolio. Vintage Trouble are one such artist. I’ve snapped them and can confirm that they certainly lived up to the hype. More recently, The Struts have been listed in the same exalted company, so when an opportunity presented to photograph them performing at Camden’s iconic Dingwalls, it wasn’t one that needed thinking about for very long.
The Struts have been active as a band since 2010, although the current line-up of Luke Spiller (vocals), Adam Slack (guitar), Jed Elliott (bass) and Gethin Davies (drums) has been consistent since 2012. The band formally from Derby, attracted recognition in 2014 when they were invited to open for The Rolling Stones at the Stade de France for the Paris leg of the ‘Stones 14 On Fire tour. This, coupled with the release of their insanely catchy debut album Everybody Wants would, you’d have thought, have secured them a significant mainstream audience. But sadly, this wasn’t the case and it took a full year and change of continent for The Struts to finally realise their potential. They have recently been charming crowds in the US, both on stage supporting the farewell shows by Mötley Crue, and on late night TV talk shows. The combination of these activities has seen their American fan base expand at an exponential rate.
So now they’re back in the UK for three modest-sized venue gigs and an appearance at T In The Park. The first stop on this most diminutive of tours was Dingwalls and it’s safe to say that people on this side of the water have taken the hint. At the end of a very warm and pleasant Summer’s day (and how often have we said that this Summer), the venue was heaving and the collective heat from the masses was practically condensing on the walls.
The theme from BBC’s Sportsnight heralded the arrival of the band. It signalled that clearly The Struts don’t take themselves too seriously. Everybody, young and old (and it was an extremely eclectic demographic) sang along and Harry Carpenter would have been proud.
The elephant in the room is the comparison between Spiller’s stage persona and that of Freddie Mercury; he looks like him, he sounds like him, he acts like him. He even dresses like him; Zandra Rhodes designs his stage clothes, as she did for Mercury and Brian May before him. The Freddie comparison is an extremely obvious and lazy one – in fact Spiller is more like Mercury would have been had he spent every waking hour away from Queen glued to the Rocky Horror Picture Show looking for ideas. Ultimately, Luke Spiller is an incredibly charismatic and engaging front man of a band with 70s glam-rock tendencies. If he didn’t look and sound a bit like Freddie Mercury, we’d probably all be asking why.
They opened with 2013 single I Just Know, but it was when opening track from Everybody Wants, Roll Up, together with its theatrical rolled ‘R’s, got unleased that the crowd went truly nuts. And you can understand why. As entertaining as the antics of Spiller are, there’s no denying that songs such as The Ole Switcheroo, Kiss This and Dirty Sexy Money are just extremely great tunes, loaded with lyrics: She got money, dirty sexy money, my high-street honey, she knows what she’s got, because she’s so shit hot’ that are crying out to be screamed back verbatim at the band.
By the time they played Dirty Sexy Money, Spiller was already into his third costume change. It really was outrageously hot and as he didn’t leave anything in the tank. There was so much sweat pouring down his face that an adventurer could have happily gone over the top of his head in a barrel. At one point, he made a plea to the lighting tech: “Mr. lighting guy, can you turn this bastard light down right here” (points to volcanic bulb above his head), “I don’t wanna leave this concert looking like Peter Andre”.
There were two songs in the encore. The first, Black Swan – a rocked up number on the album – was played with just vocal and acoustic guitar and was lit solely by a couple of hundred mobile phone torches. The second, Where Did She Go?, final track on Everybody Wants and a song that really does sound like it ought to have been recorded in 1974, invoked mass singing and a brief period where Spiller made the audience crouch on the floor. Of course, this preceded everybody leaping back up and going completely berserk before Luke took a trip round the audience on a pair of benevolent shoulders.
“Let’s make this the best gig these four walls have ever seen”, yelled Spiller shortly before the end. I can’t comment on whether The Struts succeeded in that lofty ambition, but I do know that if I attend a more entertaining show this year, I’ll be very, very surprised. Take it from this music photographer: the others were right; this really is a band that you want on the ‘must see’ list.
Live Review & Photography of The Struts by Simon Reed at Dingwalls on 5th July 2016.
Simon Reed has his own website here with more concert photos..www.musicalpictures.co.uk