It’s rare to see a British band take over the world without becoming a household name in their own country first, but whilst The Struts’ global CV is more than impressive – they’ve played shows with The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, The Who and Guns ‘N’ Roses as well as collaborating on record with the likes of Def Leppard, Robbie Williams and Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello – they’ve got a bit of catching up to do in the UK despite having formed here in the Midlands. Perhaps that’s why these shows are being dubbed “The Homecoming Tour”, as the Derby 4-piece seek to reintroduce themselves on these shores.
They’ve already got a good head start with a road-sharpened set and a rabid core of a fanbase, so rocking opener ‘Primadonna Like Me’ sets the bar high and is quickly backed up by Stateside hits ‘Body Talks’ and ‘Kiss This’ to show the audience what they’ve been missing out on, which is a brand of melodic hard rock heavily inspired by classic British bands of the ‘70s with a glam edge. Certainly frontman Luke Spiller’s flamboyant stage presence owes a lot to Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger whilst Adam Slack takes on the role of guitar hero with tasty solos on the energetic ‘I Hate How Much I Want You’ and ‘Fire’. The crowd are perhaps a little slow to match the band’s exuberance and Luke notes “You’re a bit sleepy tonight, Birmingham. Prove me wrong!”
Luke takes to piano for the big-sounding ‘One Night Only’ which channels both Queen at their most bombastic and the grandiosity of My Chemical Romance’s ‘The Black Parade’, whilst an acoustic ‘Mary Go Round’ brings the pace down as Luke instructs the lighting engineer to cut all of the stage lights so the audience can illuminate the venue with their smartphones. Seizing on the opportunity to get the crowd involved further, stomper ‘Put Your Money On Me’ provides a chance for a singalong before an epic medley featuring snippets of tracks like ‘Bulletproof Baby’ and ‘Where Did She Go’ is a good way of letting fans hear bits of their favourites that didn’t quite make the cut in their entirety, although perhaps it would have been preferable to include one or more in place of the pretty middling cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ which follows. The main part of The Struts’ set closes with an extended ‘I Do It So Well’ in which Luke introduces the band members one by one and asks the audience to crouch down on the floor before the song bursts back into life for a fiery outro.
After the crowd cheer for an encore, Luke appears on his own and takes a seat at his piano to start off with ballad ‘Strange Days’, chuckling endearingly as he forgets the words and the rest of the band and crew try to put him off from the side of the stage. He acknowledges the Struts’ roots “playing to literally one man and a dog in Leicester” and brings out a crew member so the crowd can wish him a happy birthday, before the band close with an impressive ‘Could Have Been Me’. It’s the kind of show that lays a lot of groundwork for the band to plant their feet firmly and build even further for next time they’re on home soil.
Prior to The Struts taking to the stage, Cardiff newcomers Cardinal Black impress with a set of soulful blues-infused rock centred around singer Tom Hollister’s fantastic vocal range and virtuoso guitarist Chris Buck’s versatile solos. “We thought you’d all be in the pub!” laughs Tom, joking that their keyboardist’s main role is simply to mix drinks behind the large stand bearing the band’s name. They’ve some great songs already – slow track ‘Jump In’ is a highlight and the closing pair of bluesy tracks ‘I’m Ready’ and ‘Tied Up In Blue’ show off their rootsy influences, so it’ll be well worth keeping tabs on them to see what comes next from them.
Review by: Ian Paget
Photographs: Ian Dunn