This rather fine night out at the venerable Sunset Strip club began with a number of surprises. First off, a 9:15 p.m. start time for the headlining group is a substantial shock … just how young IS this band, anyway? Second, the place is packed with young and old attendees — diehard fans? — from far-off Berlin, Germany to the remote corners of the San Fernando Valley, but there’s a refreshing lack of ‘tude going on … folks’re just letting other folks be folks, and the mood is friendly and convivial. And right when this correspondent walks in, he’s greeted by the sight of Craig Gass onstage, warming/working up the crowd with the spot-on celeb impressions he’s used as a regular guest on The Howard Stern Show. This is actually … fun! And then, wow, here comes rock’s newest English saviours!
Possibly the best thing about the Struts is the way they take the best things from others, these musical magpies, and re-fashion them in ear-hooking ways. They make the Slade bits in their tunes sound even Slader; they find new toys that Aerosmith hid in the attic back in 1975; and don’t even get me started on how many more Cheap Tricks they’ve raided from Rick Nielsen’s files … they found every trick in his book. Yet this daring little bit of alchemy (or thievery) is leavened by their unpretentious and lively onstage brio, led by singer Luke Spiller.
We haven’t seen a rock and roll preacher/creature like Mr. Spiller in many years. The man looks like the mutant offspring of Tim Curry and Joan Jett, trills his R’s like a 17th-century aristo, and seems to kind of float from one side of the Roxy’s stage to the other with such practise that you surmise he was mimicking rock videos from inside the pram. In short, he has Mercury’s poise.
Spiller and the Struts write songs celebrating everything that’s been done before in rock tunes — kissing (“Kiss This”), falling in love (“Put Your Money on Me”), fucking (“Body Talks”), and most importantly, clapping along to the beat (“Put Your Hands Up”) — and unlike, say, the Darkness, they never make you feel slightly embarrassed that you’re enjoying yourself, or worried that it’s all too camp to go all-in.
While their image has often suggested an ’80s revival in the making — and heaving Steel Panther’s comic singer Ralph Saenz up for an encore tonight of Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” isn’t doing them any favours there — it’s more about the bands from the decade prior: the ’70s Stones, AC/DC, the Raspberries, KISS, and more. The Darby foursome are still touring a debut album (Everybody Wants) released four years ago, so they can’t be accused of having too easy a time of it, but the labour is earning dividends: Seven days after tonight’s final installment of a four-night stand at the Roxy, they’ll be on the Download/Donington Main Stage supporting Guns N’ Roses. (And they definitely have “industry friends,” because that’s Randy Jackson of the American Idol TV show playing bass with them for their encore of Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel.”)
Hopefully, each new album here on out will offer even better rewards than they’ve already delivered, and it’s a safe bet they will.