Struts bring anthemic rock back into the ‘cool club’ at ACL

Guitarist Adam Slack and lead vocalist Luke Spiller of The Struts perform on the second weekend of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 7. Photo by Tom McCarthy Jr. for American-Statesman

Guitarist Adam Slack and lead vocalist Luke Spiller of The Struts perform on the second weekend of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 7. Photo by Tom McCarthy Jr. for American-Statesman

Derby, Derbyshire’s the Struts are the kind of band that burns anthems early into the set. It’s a bold strategy that works because every track is written for spilled beers and backstage antics.

2013’s breakout “Could Have Been Me” won the Miller Lite stage early with anthemic clapping and an irresistible British charm that recalls the Darkness’ pastiche peaks.

With cheerleading chants, hand claps, and expert air-drumming, Luke Spiller dresses the part as a frontman. His knucklehead anthems recall, say, Kiss’ “Strutter” modernized with My Chemical Romance’s mid-2000s march tempos. Songs like “The Ol’ Switcheroo” stuck with glam sensibilities. Cab Calloway-like, call-and-response singing on “Kiss This” was saucy and vibrant.

With set-closing new single “Put Your Money On Me,” the band coerced everyone to sit down prior to the rousing final chorus. It’s a move that Slipknot perfected at the 2001 Ozzfest, sure, but it still moves.

“And for those of you seeing us for the first time: Welcome to the cool club, kids,” singer Spiller said.

It’s d***s-out-for-Harambe rock. And Jesus Christ frontmen are so rare these days that damn if I don’t enjoy seeing a man commit to a pair of leather trousers.

He may perform literally in Freddy Mercury’s clothes (Zandra Rhodes outfits him, as she did Mercury), but he’s a welcome revivalist. Whereas Jet and Towers of London missed big because they sucked and lacked onstage charisma, Spiller oozes it.

Here it’s a mildly populated jam out jostling for positioning alongside Chicago Cubs fans, but Spiller is a veritable rock star. Everything is crisp and resonant, fat, and happy in terms of the music’s generous portions of singalong breakdowns, flowing hair, and familiar power chords. The band’s been wearing out one record, 2014’s “Everybody Wants,” forever (who has time to record when you spend part of the year supporting Guns N’ Roses?), and because of the constant grinding of one live batch they have the collective power of vets.

“Now you can scream,” Spiller said after “Dirty Sexy Love.”

It’s rock that’s fallen out of favor and relegated to jukeboxes at dives, but the Struts proved that maybe you can mine meaningful work out of the ’80s night cover circuit. Or at least retreads with heart.

“As far as we’re concerned, we’re your band,” Spiller said, lamenting his band’s lack of U.K. radio success, before later adding: “It’s about time that rock and roll was fun again.”


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