The Struts played Irving Plaza on Friday, October 8, part of a huge U.S. tour that started in August and takes them across the U.S. until mid-November. They were as tight as you’d expect from a band that’s been on tour for months, rocking thru a long set that included many new songs from their last record, Strange Days. It was written and recorded during the pandemic lockdown, and the title song’s chorus is an apt description of that time…
Oh these are strange days, In many strange ways, Science fiction I believe, Has become reality, Oh these are strange times, Lost in our minds, We don’t know, it’s unclear, Where we’ll be this time next year
Thankfully the next year finds them onstage, where they belong. Their recorded music is made for packed shows with the crowd singing along, and Friday night was exactly that. From the second singer Luke Spiller swaggered onstage, the audience was singing and cheering at his command. Spiller is a natural performer, constantly moving and thriving on the audience’s feedback, never letting their set’s energy decrease.
From the opening notes of “Primadonna Like Me” he controlled the entire show, engaging the crowd between every song by demanding more applause or encouraging them to do complicated sing alongs, reminiscent of Rob Halford of Judas Priest. He introduced every track with a description like ‘the next song is about my favorite thing’ before “Dirty Sexy Money” or ‘the last song was the foreplay and now we’re gonna turn down the lights, so get out your phones’ before the venue went dark and they played “Mary Go Round” by the light of the crowd’s phones.
“Body Talks,” “One Night Only” and “Kiss This” are hit songs so it’s expected people joined in, but it was impressive how well the audience knew all the words to their new songs, including “I Hate How Much I Want You,” where they took over the part of the backing vocals sung on the album by Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott and Phil Collen. Other new songs played were “Wild Child,” (written with Tom Morello) that started with guitar player Adam Slack alone onstage in a spotlight for an extended introductory solo, and the sultry “Am I talking to the Champagne” that had Spiller singing at the piano.
The last song was a long version of “I Do It So Well,” and Spiller introduced Slack, bass player Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies, and then split the audience down the middle into Slack and Elliott’s sides, and pitted them against each other in a spirited cheering contest. After going back and forth for awhile Spiller said ‘fucking hell New York that was all right’ and then kept the song going, directing everyone to crouch down as they decreased the tempo and volume, and the place got hushed until Spiller told everyone to leap up and scream as loud as they could and the place went crazy. The song volumed soared and the crowd jumped up and down in unison, shaking the whole place. At the end they walked offstage leaving the audience chanting ‘one more song’ at the end of the set (which was selling the encore short because there were two songs left on the setlist.)
Spiller came out alone and began “Strange Days” at the piano and the place went silent, appreciating his playing and impressive vocal range. They ended their show, unsurprisingly, with their smash hit “Could Have Been Me,” leading the crowd in one last sing along before taking a sweaty bow. It’s pretty common to find the Struts opening for the world’s biggest rock acts or playing festivals, so it was special to see them in a smaller venue like Irving Plaza.
The Starbenders, from Atlanta, were the opening band. The crowd was mostly full and enjoyed their set, their moody stage lighting and sound were reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus and Mary Chain. They are playing several other dates on this Struts tour.
The Struts – Irving Plaza – October 8, 2021
Setlist: Primadonna Like Me, Body Talks, Kiss This, Hate How Much I Want You, Fire, One Night Only, Dirty Sexy Money, Low Key in Love, Mary Go Round (acoustic), Put Your Money on Me, Medley, Champagne, Wild Child, I Did it so Well
Encore: Strange Days, Could Have Been Me