Written by Eric Sperrazza, Photographed by Liv Foltiny
When I was in Junior High School, long before Wayne’s World had us headbanging along, I had discovered the band, Queen. At such a young age, the band’s music had me do an about face to new emotions I was sometimes ill-equipped to deal with. When the voice of legendary Freddie Mercury wanted the audience to feel sad, I was swimming in a sea of melancholy. Conversely, when the tone changed to a deep and overwhelming love for someone, my heart was engulfed in a wave of feelings that, although I was novice to, Queen were the right sherpas to speak the words I could not. Because of this pubescent love affair I had with the band, I was rightfully crushed when the music suddenly stopped. When Freddie Mercury died, I wept, not only because a venerable ventriloquist of my soul left the world for me to deal with life all on my own, but that I would never see the future incarnations of the band. That was the brilliance of Queen; their style, their themes and their topic matter changed with their age, the album & the times.
The year 2015… the first time I had heard the band, The Struts. Unlike any comparisons the general populace made between proverbial new-bands-on-the-block and Queen, prior, there was something different happening with The Struts. The music had all the quintessential Glam Rock elements found in bands like Sweet or The New York Dolls and Struts frontman Luke Spiller did have an amazing and somewhat familiar voice, but there was more. There was passion, theatrics, the marksman-use of musical inflection and, most of all, there was an insane amount of heart. My spirit was feeling and feeling hard in a way that took me right back to summers in Queens, New York, visiting my grandparents and staying up late to dissect mix tapes of B-Side Queen tracks my uncle would make for me, adding layers to my newly discovered fandom. But the biggest joy for me was The Struts had me wonder if their music would have been the modern incarnation of the British Classic Rock Royalty, I held such a deep appreciation for.
On July 22nd, 2023; The Struts brought their Remember the Name 2023 Tour to Philadelphia’s Fillmore and I took this opportunity to see if the magic was something of a studio creation or if the spiritual baton truly had been passed to these four Derbyshire musicians. At 6pm, an hour before the doors ever opened at The Filmore in Philadelphia, the line for general admission attendees was already sprawling up two city blocks. The age group of ticket holders spanned from 7 to 70 years of age. From fans of vintage Glam all the way through The Struts discography tenure and even new listeners who had discovered the band via TikTok, they were all ravenous to get in and find their place in the crowd to take in the show.
First on stage was the opening band, Mac Saturn. The six-piece band, made up of frontman Carson Macc, Angelo Coppola (Drums.), Mike Moody&Nick Barone (guitar), Jive Moses(Bass) and Evan Mercer (Piano.), have been a staple in the Detroit music scene for the last few years. They started releasing singles in 2022 and since have risen to a level of cult popularity rarely seen today with new rock & roll bands. Exploding into their first single, Diamonds, you could already hear some of the Gen-Xers in the audience compare Macc and his constant state of motion to that of a Mick Jagger…and the fans weren’t completely off the mark. However, as they continued with such formidable songs such as “Ain’t Like You, Mint Julep” and their second EP, Plain Clothes Gentleman, I could not only hear the Motown influence in their explosive brand of funk rock, but the very spirit of Detroit. There was something both fun, dangerous and poetic happening, all at once. The performance, and Macc in particular, was reminiscent of such Detroit Rock banner holders like The MC5 and The Stooges. In fact, that is what I saw, immediately, watching Macc, onstage, a young Iggy Pop. For me, and those around me, that was exhilarating. To the younger audience with no frame of reference, they appeared dumbfounded and wide-eyed with entertainment at the tour de force that was blowing through the stage, straight out of Motor City.
After a short intermission to redress the stage, the crowd tightened closer as the house lights dimmed, and out came Spiller along with bandmates, Gethin Davies (Drums.), Jed Elliott (Bass.), and Adam Slack (Guitar.). The band wasted zero time riling up the fans by ripping into their smash from their 2014 debut album, Everybody Wants, “Dirty Sexy Money.” From there, The Struts tore through a 20-song setlist that included previous hits like “Kiss This” and “In Love with a Camera” to new singles released this year like “Too Good at Raising Hell” and an electric version of “Pretty Vicious.”
Some notable covers the band performed was Lorde’s “Royals,” which gave the song a much slicker and sexier vibe coming from the cacophony of the Glam Rock artists performing it, but the real treat felt like it almost happened by accident, ” Bohemian Rhapsody.” Well, the first stanza, anyway. Spiller sat behind his Union Jack-draped piano and, before beginning the two encores, “Fire (Part One)” and “Could have been Me,” Spiller cheekily began to play the piano introduction of the epic Queen track from their album, A Night at the Opera. The crowd understood the assignment and began singing to the melody of the piano. And, before long, Spiller joined the crowd with their loving homage to Mercury and the band. To say this moment almost brought a tear to my eye is an understatement! It was a beautiful nod to the band’s vibe without completely claiming the song as their own, for the night.
The aforementioned “Could Have Been Me” brought the night to a close as a swan song to all the feels the band exalted and, thus, invoked. The lyrics of the chorus belted out on all cylinders by everyone in the audience, “I wanna taste love and pain! Wanna feel pride and shame! I don’t wanna take my time! Don’t wanna waste one line! I wanna live better days! Never look back and say, it could have been me” like a life’s vow and a call-to-action, there was a sense of purpose solidified for all in the room and a drive to live their best lives as the house light illuminated the Fillmore, once more.
I had seen Queen in concert, twice, with Paul Rogers during the Return of The Champions tour. Although I spent quite a pretty penny to be in the company of Roger Taylor and Brian May, it felt a lot like I was hearing Bad Company do Queen covers, to my ears. However, leaving The Filmore and thinking about the crowd work Spiller did, the insane guitar and drum solos and even the body movements of the band throughout the night, I felt as if I was at a vintage Queen concert at times and being introduced to new music, and yet without the band trying for that comparison. Even during Bohemian Rhapsody, it felt more of a singalong with Spiller and fellow Queen fans than a band trying to be Queen. And that was the beauty of the whole night. The show was both original and wildly entertaining but with a love letter to mutual fandom.
It is no wonder the band has had staying power and respect throughout the music industry from some of the biggest names for almost a decade. In no small amount of time, there will be a whole new generation comparing bands to the energy and creativity of The Struts.
The Remember the Name Tour ended in the city of Brotherly Love, but you can follow The Struts –