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Thursday, 7 July 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: The Struts

The Struts - Thekla Bristol

With loyalties torn I headed to Bristol for my first viewing US beating rockers The Struts, why were they torn? Well the gig happened to coincide with the biggest game in Welsh football history so unfortunately for the support act for the night House Of Thieves I pretty much missed their set as I was ear-wigging the 5 Live commentary of the game right up until the first part of the second half and the unpleasantness. Luckily The Struts managed to wash a way any negativity with a show worthy of arena headliners, drawing the whole set from their astonishing debut album. With the Grandstand theme blaring out of the PA (this band make a living on their Britishness) the voice over welcomed us to the show and drummer Gethin Davies, bassist Jed Elliot and leonine guitarist Adam Slack took to the stage and proceeded to open the show with some instrumental exploration which turned into the riff of album opener Roll Up as frontman Luke Spiller made his entrance decked out in the most shiniest cape/jacket combo this side of Rick Wakeman.

The band had an added toughness live with the riffs having additional hard rock swagger to get the head nodding along, Spiller like all good front-men immediately draws all attention to him, his stereotypical English diction replete with trilling 'R's, uncontrollable body convulsions and preening rockstar sneer making him the bastard love child of Freddy Mercury, Mick Jagger and Noel Fielding, but also meant that the sizable audience that had gathered on Bristol's boat were eating out of his hand from the first song, as the pacey Roll Up ended it moved straight into the anthemic chant of Could Have Been Me which saw the first of many sing-alongs. As I said the band drew heavily form their debut album with every song played coming from the records, These Times Are Changing was another driving Stones-like rocker getting asses shaking and hands clapping.

The band are young, brash and fun but this gig did show their inexperience as with Spiller's three costume changes there were periods of silence, he even preempted himself before the massive regret fuelled ballad Mary Go Round which was greeted like an old friend and sung like an arena classic, despite the small breaks in proceedings, the band were on fire rapidly firing out their sublime glam-styled, swaggering rock songs with a ferocity rarely seen. Davies and Elliot made sure that the entire crowd (most of whom were female refreshingly) where shaking their hips to the sordid Dirty Sexy Money, the euphoric Put Your Money On Me, the band's fuck you anthem Kiss This and my personal favourite the tongue in cheek The Ol' Switcheroo which saw Spiller guiding the crowd in synchronized arm waving.

He is a master of his craft having the gathered mass eating out of his hands goading, encouraging and generally getting them to worship him, in almost total antithesis to guitarist Adam who is a quiet man on the side of the stage peeling off the fuzzy riffs and the scorching solos that were elongated in a live setting. Mentioned previously the four piece really stopped in the costume changes and these were a little obvious, distracting the punters a little, more so as the band wrapped up the set with Young Star and Only Just A Call Away which was triumphant end to the bands set. Plunged into darkness there was stomps, claps and cheers and then a return for just Slack and an acoustic, he welcomed Spiller back on to the sage and they played a raw, ragged version of Black Swan which showed Luke's voice to it's fullest as well as the intricate playing of Slack, it was almost cathartic for the two men and as they finished their was collective intake of breath before the eruption at it's climax.

The lights went down again and I feared the worst, only to have my fears confirmed, the band were going to do a second encore, a ballsy move for a band at the beginning of their career but they dedicated the song to everyone in the audience as they seemed to be in awe of what was happening, this is probably due to Bristol being part of the bands old stomping ground so the felt an affinity with the place, the final song was Where Did She Go which was the powerhouse way of closing proceedings properly while Spiller once again dazzled in another retro outfit. The like a brief fling it was over, leaving you in hot heaving mess and as the outro of Long Live Hooky Street from Only Fools And Horses, we were all very satisfied indeed.

You find yourself lost in the band when they perform, effortlessly likeable and welcoming, the songs all have hit potential but there is a certain laissez-faire attitude to the band that mean that nothing they do seems too much effort (but the contrary is probably true). With this triumphant tour selling out venues right and left it hopefully won't be long until the band return to these shores in a bigger venue where they belong. When they do return, do me and yourself a favour and watch them as on stage much like on record The Struts are almost perfect! 9/10         

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