At the risk of sounding like a spoiled brat, after covering multiple shows a month for almost two years, I’ve become a little hard to impress. It’s not that I don’t still clap, dance and move, but I’m definitely less likely to get worked into a fanatic frenzy than I used to be. With that being said, there are still acts that blow me away, and I had a feeling going in that The Struts might make that list.
After seeing them once before at Shaky Knees in 2016, I knew to expect a high energy set filled with theatrical movements rivaling the most interpretive of dances from vocalist Luke Spiller, but even prior experience with the band couldn’t prepare me for what was in store at Variety Playhouse. Spiller looked like the product of a ménage à trois between Liza Minnelli, Freddie Mercury and a bolt of lightning as The Struts came out swinging with a blistering instrumental intro that lead into a barrage of sweat-inducing jams including “Primadonna Like Me,” “Body Talks,” “Kiss This” and their newest single “Fire (Part 1).”
The way Spiller spun and jumped around the Variety Playhouse stage was intoxicating; so much so, I never even got a drink. The attention The Struts command when they perform is unparalleled by any other band I’ve seen in recent memory, and the only thing that comes close to matching Spiller’s intense stage presence is the talent level of the other musicians. Tactful and technical solos from guitarist Adam Slack injected additional energy into many of the songs, and the tight pocket held by bassist Jed Elliot and drummer Gethin Davies kept the whole crowd bobbing constantly.
Moving throug the set, The Struts took their energy to new heights each time you thought it had reached a peak, only briefly letting the air out for a cellphone-lit, stripped down version of the widely fan-requested song “Mary Go Round.” The intimate rendition allowed the crowd to catch their breath, refill their drinks and prepare themselves for the second half of the impressive set knowing there were still a few big hits on the horizon.
Immediately after “Mary Go Round,” The Struts launched into two personal favorites in “Put Your Money on Me” and “Bulletproof Baby.” The one-two punch of fast-paced, fan favorites had the crowd in a fever pitch just before the band left the stage briefly before the big encore. With the house lights down and the stage lights softly illuminating an empty stage, waves of applause rolled in every few seconds, washing over the venue and, we hoped, the band’s ears.
I can only assume that our cries were heard, or maybe they had planned an encore the whole time (insert feigned astonishment), but either way, The Struts emerged ready to play a few more songs to reward our sustained adoration. The three-song encore set consisted of “Somebody New” and “Ashes (Part 2)” before ending, predictably, with “Could Have Been Me.” Although the final song choice was a foregone conclusion, there was still an incomparable level of excitement throughout the crowd as they slayed their biggest hit to date.
It’s no secret that a band’s headlining shows are often a more intimate and energizing experience than their festival sets, but The Struts put on an incredibly memorable and invigorating set. While I really only remember Luke Spiller’s skill at rolling his R’s from their Shaky Knees performance, there’s a laundry list of unforgettable moments from their evening at Variety Playhouse. I look forward to the next opportunity I get to see The Struts live, and while I don’t typically hand out ratings for shows, I unequivocally give The Struts a 12/10.
Photos by Alexandra Scuffle for Bullet Music