By Mike Greenblatt
They strut out on the stage in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania like true-blue rock stars in all their finery, glitter and sequin. Larger-than-life, bombastic, over-the-top...The Struts, from Derby, Derbyshire, England, are rewriting the rules in this post-glam, post-grunge, post-punk era of rock ‘n’ roll. Call it post-classic rock if you want. Practically every song is an anthem. A fist-raising anthem, in fact. Club XL didn’t know what hit it. But the kids understood. They went wild. In opener “Primadonna Like Me,” frontman Luke Spiller—destined for greatness—asks that musical question, “Hey You! Don’t you know who I think I am?” (Their video for the song features a cameo appearance by Alice Cooper.)
If he thinks he’s an icon, then he is. He flounces around the stage, slinking in a sinuous provocative gait that accentuates not only his lithe body but his bad intentions. Not since the 1988 version of Axl Rose has there been such a young frontman so palpably thrilling. Moves like Jagger? Not quite. More like Freddie Mercury. He even looks like the Queen legend. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect in the States in these Queen-centric times what with the release of the mostly excellent Bohemian Rhapsody movie. The stage is too small for Spiller. He needs to be in front of 80,000+ like he was in Paris when The Struts opened for The Rolling Stones before their first album was even out. After they opened for The Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl called them his best opening act ever. And with the release of the aptly named Young & Dangerous (the sophomore effort after their Everybody Wants debut), this band is staking its claim as the next great British band. Period. Luke even rolls his Rs.
Backstage, in their cramped dressing room, all three sit like good little boys and answer questions until the fourth, Luke, fashionably late, joins the conversation right after I mention how their sound could even be called orgasmic.
Even his entrance is large. “ORGASMIC? Did I hear someone say orgasmic?’” The 30- year old Brit singer-songwriter with the sexy British accent and charisma to spare is surrounded by 20-somethings in this band. He looks nothing like what he looks like onstage and that’s the way he prefers it.
“We’ve always strived for big choruses,” he begins, “and I think that definitely lends itself to what’s called ‘anthemic stadium rock’ but there’s humor in the fact that I think we write songs which are kind of bigger than where we’re really at, but it’s cool. That’s part of the experience. It’s part of the escapism of the whole thing. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing in front of 400 people or 80,000. The music is big. The shows look big.
“I mean, we don’t really sound glam,” he continues. “I think why we were originally categorized as such is that we play off Bowie and T-Rex imagery. Slade and Mott The Hoople, too. We have a little bit of that, but I think it’s in the way we present ourselves. If we were to walk on stage with, you know, what we wear day-to-day while shopping in the supermarket, I don’t think we would be labeled as glam, but we consciously make an effort. So therefore, sure, we’re glam as f**k.”
“Body Talks,” another anthem, done as a Kesha duet on the album, is all power-poppy to the point of echoing Cheap Trick or the Raspberries.
But do they mind all the constant Queen comparisons?
“Not at all,” he says. “Whatever, man. It’s a compliment, right? At least they’re not comparing us to Maroon 5.”
When Luke strips off his jacket on-stage, the girls let out an audible sigh. He’s sweating like a long-distance runner now as he teases the adoring crowd with “Kiss This.” Everybody is up on their feet. It’s a glorious moment... what rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be all about. Pure. Unadulterated. Freedom. Drummer Gethin Davies is a man-machine of monster proportions. When coupled as one with bassist Jed Elliott, theymake a steamroller of a rhythm section. The secret weapon is, of course, guitarist/composer Adam Slack. If you close your eyes, you’d swear there were two guitars on that stage, not just one. He carries the heavy load, bending strings, hitting that wah-wah pedal, utilizing the kind of distortion that ends with controlled feedback, he’s the new Guitar Hero on the block. Brian May on steroids.
“We named the album Young And Dangerous as a nod to that great Thin Lizzy live album Live And Dangerous,” ends Luke. “We are a force to be reckoned with. There’s no one on planet Earth at the moment that can touch us live. We are the best live band in the world and there’s no denying that when you come see us. You can’t stop us. You just can’t. Give us the production values of the bigger bands with the million-dollar budgets and we’d positively smoke ‘em all and that’s a fact.”