The Struts debut new songs and gyrate their way through US tour kickoff in St. Petersburg
Returning to Tampa Bay after a long absence and an unfortunate COVID-related postponement (this show was originally scheduled to occur in 2020), Britain’s premier glam rock-inspired quartet, The Struts, returned to do what it does best on Tuesday night.
Kicking off its current “Make it Big” U.S. tour at downtown St. Petersburg’s outdoor venue, Jannus Live, the lively and spirited band delivered an outstanding 85-minute set that left the near-capacity crowd in attendance wanting more.
Led by charismatic and vivacious lead singer and focal point Luke Spiller, the band showed no signs of being rusty or jetlagged despite Spiller’s admissions suggesting that. Had the vocalist not mentioned that this was only the band’s third gig in 18 months and that they’d just flown in from England the day before this gig, the rapt audience would have had no way of detecting those potential drawbacks.
Donning a sparkling, rainbow-colored blouse, tasseled leather pants and plenty of glittery face makeup, Spiller danced, pranced and gyrated his way from side to side of the stage as he toyed with the crowd and got it to sing along during many of the night’s numbers.
Drawing from a small but powerful catalog, The Struts pulled out plenty of crowd-pleasers and magnificently straddled the lines between the band’s unabashed nods to glam-rock, power-pop, hard, sludgy rock and some R&B-inspired moments too.
Opening with the lively rocker “Primadonna Like Me” from the 2018 album, Young and Dangerous, the band appeared to be ready and anxious to return to a concert stage. Wasting no time in kicking things off, Spiller set the tone for the night with his playful antics and his obvious elation for getting to perform for an audience.
Spiller’s voice was in fine form throughout the performance and was complemented well by the harmonies and background vocals guitarist Adam Slack and bassist Jed Elliott provided during the performance. Despite a slight sound snag (that was quickly corrected) preventing Spiller from adding piano work to one of the night’s selections, the band’s mix was superb thanks in great part to the band’s crew who Spiller thanked from the stage during the show.
Shifting gears between the driving, ‘70s-inspired pop of a song like “Put Your Money on Me” to the harder, more grinding rock of “Wild Child” is no easy feat. The Struts are obviously students and admirers of a variety of genres and their prowess and ability to tackle so much musical terrain and to do it well is truly where their charm lies.
Successfully getting the enthralled audience to sing along and insert its own vocal accompaniments throughout the night, Spiller has studied some of rock and roll’s greatest front men in honing his onstage panache: traces of Queen’s Freddie Mercury and the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger occasionally surface in his delivery which only add to his exquisite stage presence.
A scorching version of “I Hate How Much I Want You” from the band’s latest studio offering, 2020’s Strange Days was delivered flawlessly despite Spiller announcing that we’d just witnessed the very first time that tune had ever been performed live.
Other highlights from this memorable performance included an acoustic rendering of “Mary Go Round” that featured only Spiller and Slack as well as Spiller sitting behind an upright piano to churn out a gorgeous version of the encore-opening “Strange Days,” the title track from the band’s latest album. “I forgot the first line…I’m so jetlagged” Spiller laughed at the onset of the song but it was no time before he was able to launch into what might have been the true showstopper of the night.
The anthemic “Could Have Been Me” brought this much-needed night of sheer rock and roll firepower and levity to a close in grand fashion.
As the band said its goodbyes from the stage and hurled guitar picks, towels and printed setlists into the crowd, it was obvious from their smiles and those of their adoring audience members, that this long-awaited, postponed show had been more than worth the wait.—Gabe Echazabal
08/31/2021 | Photos by Dan Schuman