Stadium screams. Starstruck tears. That tangible wave of pure obsession that strangles a crowd and spreads like a fire. Seeing The Struts soak it up onstage felt like history was already happening. Just like waking up to realize you’re still dreaming, you were suddenly aware of the fleeting, secret moment in which one small night becomes a big notch on an even bigger timeline. All by some recipe for success that even the strongest minds can’t define but like to call “star quality.”
And you woke up to find that something massive can still happen to rock and roll, and not only that, but you were there. You witnessed The Struts’ ‘16 show at Irving Plaza the night before they released Everybody Wants, just two years after they opened for the Stones in Paris and supported Black Sabbath in Hyde Park. One of the pivotal performances, no doubt, before their inevitable rise to fame, before they had ever sold out Madison Square Garden or the O2 or made the cover of Rolling Stone; the timeless tale. It hasn’t happened yet, but sometimes, you just know.
Everyone at Irving did. Fittingly, the night flew by like the grainy footage from The Early Years chapter of a rockumentary. “Yes,” you can tell your grandkids, “they really did cover Bowie that night, and Luke Spiller was just as electrifying as they say.” “How many outfits did he wear?” they’d ask with wide eyes. You’d hold up three fingers. You’d explain the importance of sequins, glitter, leather, and fringe in an era when the glamour of Rock with a capital R had all but faded away into indie pop, lo-fi, and something called shoegaze. “Which Bowie song?” they’d squeal, just to stave off an old-man rant.
It was “Rebel Rebel,” and it was perfect. Luke Spiller was born to sing Bowie. Though, if you read anything about The Struts, you’ll find that he was born to do a lot. He’s lovingly described as “the modern” everyone in both sound and style, “the new” this, “the next” that, “the reincarnation” of X and “the lovechild” of Y and Z. He’s not just David Bowie, but he’s Mick Jagger too; he’s Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar, George Michael, and Syd Barrett (no pressure); he’s somehow both Robert Plant and Tim Curry à la Rocky Horror (spot on). It’s some company to be in, and he does well filling eight pairs of shoes. Hell, he’s even engaged Mercury’s former stylist, Zandra Rhodes, to help construct his look. But as fun as it is to relive our icons, and make snow angels in a pile of name-drops and nostalgia, we owe it to him to retire the comparisons. Because more than anyone, he’s Luke (fucking) Spiller.
And what Luke (fucking) Spiller does is put on a (fucking) show. He moved like an animal as the band tore up metal and wood, shimmering in sweat that would soon be dried by a deluge of red, white, and blue confetti. Drinking red wine from a plastic cup between songs, he often reminded you in a splashy British accent how much he loved you. From the operatic swells of “Could Have Been Me” to the vintage nastiness of “Kiss This” and “Dirty Sexy Money” to the acoustic sensuality of “Black Swan,” The Struts took you back to a time when you might have been grounded for sneaking out to a show like this. Funny thing is, the mixed-age crowd was equal parts kids and those who do the grounding. “You may be VIP, but you’re still gonna get your knees dirty tonight!” Spiller shouted at the balconies.
That’s not only because their music transcends age, taste, and class, but because people can just see it – whatever it is. The Struts may very well be that thing we’ve so desperately needed, and a catalyst for more of it. It’s already happening. We’re just waiting for the critics to get them down on paper.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley