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Struts - Bottom Lounge, Chicago, 28/7/2016

  by Lisa Torem

published: 30 / 9 / 2016

Struts - Bottom Lounge, Chicago, 28/7/2016


Lisa Torem watches British band the Struts play an action-packed set at the Bottom Lounge to a crowd of late night Chicagoans on Lollapalooza eve

"When I say jump, what do you do, Chicago?" That's what frontman Luke Spiller is going to ask (er, demand...) in his carnival barker voice, halfway through this 90-minute, past midnight set. You're here. You will have fun. You will remember Darby's glam darlings and you will be humming their contagious, anthemic melodies as you splash clean your rubbery face the next morning on your way to your boring job. But tomorrow doesn't matter tonight as Spiller lures his audience into a state of nirvana. A few minutes before his grandiose entrance, guitarist Adam Slack, drummer Gethin Davies and bassist Jed Elliott cracked open the band's so-tight opener, 'Roll Up'. The steady pulse allowed for some great riffery and immutable energy. Spiller waltzed upstage in his first glittery outfit of the night - he would change into a muted kaftan later on, swing his arms under a black cape and show off the hippie fringe that adorned his boots. Before the Struts formed, Slack and Spiller shared a manager and similar musical tastes. In 2012, the group became complete when Elliott and Davies came on board. But their then label didn't exactly get them - they questioned their wardrobe and their hair. Spiller straight out tells the audience that the press in his native country wouldn't answer requests for interviews. And now? America adores the Struts. Last year, they played the Aragon Ballroom. The band displayed the same amount of tireless energy, but clusters of fans weren't answering the Struts' war cries with enthused, memorized stanzas. Tonight this audience and band switched off effortlessly and as they did Spiller made sure they'd come back. "How many are seeing the Struts for the first time? The second time? Who's going to see the Struts when they come back?" Coal-black liner accentuates Spiller's piercing blue eyes. He moves like Jagger and James Brown. In contrast, his mates wear earth-tones and allow him full reign. Spiller gets to be the perfect peacock. Slack shoves his bandana back on his head on occasion and at one point, does this amazing Harpo Marx mime - he stands upstage and plays mini blues riffs, cups his ear and waits for the audience to imitate. The only thing missing tonight is a solo spot from Elliott. He's so on top of it all that you can't help but want to hear more. He's the glue. As he whacks, mutes and masterfully orchestrates, he also harmonises. He's a tall, cool drink. Each player has such a strong presence and each song carries commercial genius. 'Young Star' tells this story: "We love you to hate us 'cause you won't forget us." There's the sneak-up, wistfulness of 'Where Did She Go'--"Where did my love go? I want it back the way it was..." It's easy to ignore the subtleties as arms flow and bodies sway over beer-soaked floors. 'Could Have Been Me' hints at a time when Spiller cleaned latrines and could have slipped into a career lethargy, but forged ahead in pursuit of his dream. 'Let's Make This Happen Tonight' features boy band backing vocals, fantastic riffs and cosmic quips: "Because we travel through space through the stars and The Milky Way." 'Put Your Money on Me' and 'Dirty Sexy Money' explore '80s greed and '60s excess. But The Struts aren't here to hedge funds. They're here to make sure you appreciate hard rock and all it stands for, that you revive the best beats, the sexiest bass lines, the most splendid four-to-the-floor. 'The Ol' Switcheroo' alludes to a girlfriend swap in an irresistible, tongue-in-cheek manner. So you might know the back story the way the band imagined it or not. As long as you're in Spiller's sight lines you'd best not be standing still. He'll get you. The complex chord changes and the lead's voice invariably draw comparisons to Queen. Spiller has got an incredible range and loves to throw into the mix an occasional trill. The chord progressions zip through the circle of fifths like flashes of lightning after a humid day. At one point, Spiller demands that his brethren get on all fours. The fans titter and obey. They giggle as they attempt to get up again, juggling half-drunk bottles of beer. He holds out the mic so they can sing louder than the crowd in Cincinnatti, Ohio. It's a dare. A dig. An enthralling device. It seems like everyone has studied the Struts gospel this past year. They're not mouthing the lyrics. They know them by heart. A ton has happened in a very short year. America loves the Struts. "How could I not have known about them?" they whisper and nod. "I don't want to waste one line," they heard loud and clear in 'Could Have Been Me'. But these other lyrics make the late night set even more meaningful... "I want to live better days/Never look back and say/It could have been me." By the end of November, the Struts will have hit fifteen American cities, Canada and Japan. In Chicago alone, they played three shows, one after their Lollapalooza set. Wielding their arena-friendly songs, this midnight hour act is tireless. Wow. Photos by Philamonjaro www.philamonjaro.com

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Struts - Bottom Lounge, Chicago, 28/7/2016

Struts - Bottom Lounge, Chicago, 28/7/2016

Struts - Bottom Lounge, Chicago, 28/7/2016

Struts - Bottom Lounge, Chicago, 28/7/2016

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