Written by Nick Hopton
On a cool, late summer evening at the Skyline Stage at the Mann Center, one rock and roll’s hottest spectacles, The Struts, finally returned to one of the many cities they can consider home. This homecoming, however, was different.
As the world has been anything but normal the past two years, this show had the feel of old times. The times when going to a concert surrounded by thousands of people was normal. Laughter and happiness could be heard, and the excitement in the air could be felt. It had been such a long time since this had been felt, nearly two years of shutdowns, delays, and postponements, not knowing when we would all be able to be together again to experience the magic of a live show. Together. But on this night, we all were able to forget about the strange days. We were able to live in that moment that we’ve been missing for so long. We were able to just… let go.
For one night only… the strange days indeed felt over.
Opening the show in absolute groovy fury was none other than Philadelphia’s own Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves. This is becoming a regular (and welcomed) occurrence, as it seems like every time The Struts play Philly, these guys are there to warm the crowd up. It’s a perfect appetizer for the main course.
Blending psychedelic desert rock with a soundscape built for arenas, Perri & The Underground Thieves roll through some of their biggest hits while also incorporating a few surprises as well. After the band lights up the stage with electric tracks such as “Feeling Good,” and “Let You Know,” they bust out the full body of their work with a mesmerizing guitar jam in “5.0.1,” immediately leading into the Neil Young classic, “My My, Hey Hey,” which ascends into the rock and roll heavens with a fiery guitar solo unleashed by Perri.
The band ends their night with a new track, “I Want To Be Free,” destined to hit the airwaves in the near future with its infectious and memorable atmosphere. So much more is on the way from this incredible band, and it’s wonderful to watch it unfold as they evolve. Keep your eyes and ears open. The Thieves are coming.
As the sky grows darker and the lights hit harder, the crowd begins to build eager anticipation for what’s to come. A glam-rock spectacle for the ages. The blending of the old and the new. The 21st Century Dandies.
Ladies and Gentlemen… The Struts.
Wasting no time throwing the crowd into a frenzy, the boys from across the pond blast right into “Primadonna Like Me,” a bombastic tune designed to get the blood pumping and the juices flowing.
Decked out head to toe in black and pink leather, the band sends you back to a time when glitter and gold were all you needed to let loose. Luke Spiller, frontman extraordinaire and future rock and roll legend, is a modern-day Freddie Mercury. This comparison is constantly used for him… but it’s for a good purpose. Not only is the resemblance uncanny, but the magic that he creates on stage and the connection with the crowd are matched only by Freddie. It’s truly wondrous to watch it unfold and see the control he has over the audience. Always in the palm of his hands, he demands their full attention and excitement, and goddammit, does he ever get it.
They immediately segue into their full catalog of hits without so much as a breather for the crowd for a number of tunes. “Body Talks” lets the rock and roll rip with blistering guitar work from Adam Slack, followed by the full-blown dancefest that is “Kiss This.” It is very hard to find a rock band that is better on stage than their recordings, as sometimes it’s hard to capture the magic that is created in the studio. But this band blows their album work out of the water. They are a live band, meant to be seen and experienced on stage. Proper showmen. The real deal.
As someone who was skeptical of their latest album and the production that went into it, the songs of this endeavor sound leaps and bounds better than they do on the record. “I Hate How Much I Want You” has the heart that was so much desired, yet lost, on the album version. “Am I Talking To The Champagne” is a sexy, Santana-esque journey that is only taken higher live with the supreme guitar work of Slack.
“Wild Child,” originally recorded with Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, is a new rebel anthem not only for the band, but rock music in general. The electricity that the stage pulls from the crowd during these songs makes you wish that the latest album, “Strange Days,” was recorded as a live album rather than one in the typical studio setting. Hearing these songs, in this setting, creates an entirely new profile for the tracks, along with a whole new appreciation for what they created.
“Low Key In Love,” though not on the album, is a new single that the band recorded with Paris Jackson, daughter of King Of Pop, Michael Jackson. Again, the live version just creates such an intimate setting and vibe that cannot be matched on record.
The biggest song of the evening, though, was clearly the title track from that last album, “Strange Days.” Spiller begins the song in the encore, just he and his piano, gradually building the emotion through the lyrics that reflect the position we have all been in over the past two years. More than halfway through, the rest of the lads join him in what can only be described as, well, an absolute epic of a climax. They take this song to new heights that make you feel like you’re listening to an entirely new piece of art, to the point where it was putting tears in people’s eyes. That’s not easy to do. Yet, they make it look so easy, and they do it so well.
We end the night with their first hit, “Could Have Been Me,” an ode to enjoying the here and now, which is exactly what we were all there doing, enjoying being in the moment. As we have all learned over the past two years, those moments are fleeting. At the end of the day, they are all we have.
Sing-a-longs, dancing, glitter, strutting. It’s a raucous masterclass on how to be a proper rock band. It’s a welcome few hours of normalcy. It’s what we want and needs at this time. A little reminder that things can, and will, return to the glory days.