The following post is courtesy of Tidbit guest writer, Alex Matkovic!
It was the summer of 2016 when I stumbled out of the Bottom Lounge in Chicago at 1:30am after what was undoubtedly the most memorable concert experience of my life thus far. I was helping a friend of mine move down to Texas the following morning, but she asked if I wanted to go to this concert with her the night prior as part of her going away bash. She said it was for a band called The Struts – I recognized the name, I had heard one of their songs on the radio that summer. Naturally I accepted. At that point I wasn’t really expecting too much.
We got to the venue in time to catch their opening act, a band called Arkells. Arkells have since then become one of my favorite bands, and they deserve their own report all to themselves. We danced for their whole set and sang along to songs we had never heard before. When they finished, we were completely exhausted and considered leaving – Arkells had more than delivered on the price of admission and we had to be up at 5am to start our 17-hour journey down to Texas. But we decided to tough it out and see what The Struts had in store for us, if we weren’t feelin’ it we could always just leave. However, when The Struts took the stage, almost immediately we could tell we were in for something special.
Never in all my life have I seen a performer who had such absolute command over a crowd. Luke Spiller – lead singer of The Struts – seemed to treat the audience as if it was an extension of himself. It was as if the call-and-response segment from Queen’s Live Aid performance was happening right here in this tiny back room in Near West Side. Waving his hands over the crowd he could control a wave of Woo’s that traveled across the room, up and down, forward and back. This appeared effortless and was endlessly compelling throughout the night. That in itself would be impressive enough, but that is just the beginning.
Luke’s voice soars above each and every song. He’s operatic and loud, he trills his R’s, and allows his accent to ring through on each word. It sounds as if the voice of Freddie Mercury has reborn for the modern age. While he never sounds like he’s doing an impression of Mercury, his spirit is certainly felt in every line. And let’s not forget about his appearance. I believe Luke left the stage for costume changes at least three separate times throughout the night. He blessed the stage with sequin jackets, deep-v’s, flow-y purple ponchos, and extravagant jewelry. He was bold, flamboyant, and unashamed. Believe it or not, at one point in the show he even informed the crowd that much of the clothes he wears on tour is actually designed for him by Zandra Rhodes. In case you don’t know, Zandra Rhodes also designed the iconic clothing of none other than Freddie Mercury himself.
The love that Luke Spiller and the rest of The Struts show for classic rock is virtually unparalleled today. Every song of theirs is one that any crowd would be thrilled to sing along to. For lovers of rock both modern and old school, The Struts have what it takes to remind you why you fell in love with the genre in the first place. Their first album – Everybody Wants – is one that I hold very dearly and has been a favorite of mine ever since that night. Their second album – YOUNG&DANGEROUS – just dropped this past October (2018) and succeeds in following up their first in every way I could have hoped. Give them a listen, and play it loud. See them live if you can. Have a bloody good time.
As I stumbled back onto the streets of Chicago at 1:30am on that warm summer night, I thought about how on earth I was going to be able to wake up in just a couple hours and drive down to Texas. We made it all the way to Oklahoma before deciding to crash at an Airbnb. But we didn’t mind. All things considered, we were confident there was no way that weekend could have played out any better.