TVD Live Shots:
The Struts at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 7/14

The Struts made their triumphant return home last week in London, kicking off their UK tour at the beautiful Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Having recently announced signing on with one of the hottest labels on the planet, Big Machine, The Struts look to be primed to finally break through and fulfill their destiny to be one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.

If you’re not familiar with Big Machine, they are the leading “independent” label based in the States with a rich history of not only turning artists into hit-making machines, but also opening up the heavens in terms of opportunities to reach the masses like no one else. Big Machine is a shining example of the modern record label; when it works, it works and generally blows up, taking the band to the next level of their career; when it doesn’t, well, let’s not go there.

The first sign of the “rebirth” of The Struts comes in the form of a new single. The band is super excited about this one as they invited the VIP ticket holders into the venue early to give it a spin. Then they played it live. I heard this song three times that night, the studio version once and two times live. While it certainly sounds like The Struts, it’s moving in a slightly new direction. Holy shit, the Machine is working.

The Struts 3.0 is an evolution, and it’s quite good. The song is called “Falling with Me,” and it’s about a night out in LA with the band as they personify the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle at the legendary Rainbow Room on the once famed Sunset Strip. It’s no surprise that these guys love their ’70s and ’80s glam rock, so why not retrace the steps of your peers and inject that into your music?

That’s what they’ve always done while successfully walking that fine line between rock ‘n’ roll and crossover pop. But this time “Falling with Me” pushes that line further towards pop but brings in a new sonic addition—I kept thinking of Spoon in my head. Luke Spiller admitted he was taking his vocals into new territory just before they played the song. I think it’s a bit Brit Daniels channeling David Byrne in places before it explodes into Spiller channeling his inner Mercury. Will it hit? What the fuck do I know, but I can’t want to get my hands on this one. I love the slick production and the T-Rex mashed with Gary Glitter-style groove. I’m hoping the band surprises us all with a drop of the single as a download sooner than later, but currently there’s no date for release.

The show was a tour de force on the strength of the band’s overall catalogue that begs the question, can these guys even write a bad song if they tried? Hook after hook, riff over riff, soaring vocals, and unmatched theatrical showmanship delivered on a roller coaster of ’70s inspired rock and high-energy power pop anthems. Highlights for me were the new song “Are You Falling With Me,” “Kiss This,” and a stellar version of the Chris Isaak classic “Wicked Game .” But nothing would outshine “Wild Child” which I think is one of their best songs. I love it when they simultaneously turn up the guitar and attitude; this song is like a lost Aerosmith gem that goes to eleven.

The Struts are celebrating 10 years as a band, and it feels like they are just getting started in many ways. Yeah, they have one hell of an impressive catalog of songs and an even more impressive list of collaborators, but I think the next record will be their defining moment. Will they go bigger and bolder, pushing their sound over the top? Will they break through to selling out arenas across Europe? Time will tell, but I know where I’m putting my money.

I forgot to mention that I had brought my 7-year-old daughter to the show. She absolutely loved it, and I think I’m setting her up with a proper answer to that age-old question, “what was your first concert?” I’m proud to say that mine was a triple bill of Ratt, Kix, and Britny Fox at the ripe old age of 14. She will hopefully have a bit more cred with The Struts if they keep up this pace.

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