LIVE: The Struts – Camden Electric Ballroom, 18/09/2017

As they prepare for the release of their second album and to head first to the continent for some dates supporting the Stones and then to the States for a tour supporting the Foo Fighters, there’s very much a feeling from the pre-gig conversation that tonight is very much put up or shut up time for The Struts. As the touring schedule above suggests, they’ve done well to make some waves in the States, but the public in their British homeland has been a bit slower catching on to them.

Having reviewed the group’s re-released debut album “Everybody Wants” on here last year I have to admit to being slightly sceptical about this band going into the gig; the group’s ability on there was pretty obvious, but it seemed that part of the record was sunk a bit by over-production which saw them sounding less like the “new Darkness” that some have hyped them as and more like Robbie Williams trying to do a ’70s glam rock album – not, I suspect, the sound they maybe had in mind. Time then to see if this band can stand on their own two feet.

The first thing that takes you by surprise is the size of the crowd – a year ago, The Struts were struggling to sell out the much smaller Dingwalls venue, but the demand for the tickets this time around was such that the gig was upgraded from Highbury Garage to the Electric Ballroom and, while it’s not full, the turnout is still impressive for a Monday night. The reception when the band comes on stage and kicks into Hands Up is pretty damn loud and when they effortlessly swagger into These Times Are Changing“, you can’t help but be impressed. Frontman Luke Spiller, who looks like Noel Fielding possessed by the spirit of Freddie Mercury circa 1974, clearly knows how to gee a crowd up and quickly has them pretty much eating out of the palm of his hand, making for a good atmosphere inside the Electric Ballroom tonight.

Although the release of the second album is imminent, the band devote the majority of the set to songs from their debut – probably a wise move given the significance of this gig. The main thing that strikes you though is that while the stronger songs such as Could’ve Been Me and Roll Up sound as good in the live arena as you’d expect, there’s a fair few of the songs which were hobbled by over-production on the record which really come into their own in the live arena with the studio polish (needless horn sections, synths etc) removed and Addo Slack’s riffs turned back up to where they should be in the mix – Kiss This and The Ol’ Switcheroo are given a new lease of life by the stripped down arrangement and absolutely nuke their studio counterparts.

We get two songs in total from the new album – Who Am I? is a bit anonymous and is probably the weakest song in the set (well, maybe after Dirty Sexy Money which was always a bit naff to begin with), but hopefully with a bit more familiarity it’ll grow into its role. New single One Night Only though is a real soaring epic and quite possibly the best thing this band have done to date. A few more like that on the new record and it really could be something worth looking out for.

They finish with a cover of Oasis’ Supersonic (again, I still don’t really see the comparisons some people make between the Gallaghers and this lot, but they handle it well) before an encore of Could’ve Been Me sends the fans home happy and your correspondents… yeah, we’ll admit it, pleasantly surprised.

Tonight was definitely a real eye-opener with The Struts and shows that when this band keep it simple and rock out, they’re actually a damn good band – certainly one of the best new live groups I’ve seen for quite a while. The big challenge is seeing if they can properly capture that energy on the upcoming second album, but if the single’s anything to go by then the signs are promising. Stay tuned folks!