Live Review : The Struts + Kelsy Karter @ Academy 2, Manchester on February 23rd 2019

The Struts have been a word of mouth sensation. There has been no big media push, instead news of this young vibrant rock fireball has been passed on covertly by one convert to another. The rumour mill has obviously been working overtime as the Academy 2 is not just sold out tonight, it is utterly rammed and in full sauna mode as everyone is here to experience the young up-starts that their friends won’t stop yapping on about.

But first Kelsy Karter, yes her of the whole Harry Styles facial tattoo malarkey. To give her her due she possesses both attitude and voice. She comes across as Amy Winehouse reimagined as a sultry rock chick and manages to go from deep soulful tones to shrieking high notes in most tracks. She certainly has stage presence and in many places brings to mind a less goth and more metal Lana Del Ray but (and there is a but) the songs are just too sugary commercialised pop for my tastes. It was a perfectly enjoyable set, I just don’t think I will be running home to listen to her stuff on Spotify.

The place is absolutely buzzing as the slightly inappropriate Gary Glitter intro music kicks in and The Struts burn on to the stage. The Academy 2 stage isn’t the biggest in the world but in Luke Spiller’s mind it’s Wembley Stadium as he careens around every single inch of it. We are barely out of the first track and already he is high kicking, spinning and pirouetting like it is the finale. All four Struts are great performers but Luke, well Luke is something else. He is probably the most gifted and charismatic frontman that this country has produced for decades. He utterly owns the stage and comes across as a mutant hybrid of Freddie Mercury and Noel Fielding. His enthusiasm and passion is just infectious and his thirst to interact with the crowd at any opportunity comes across as genuine and compelling. Luke is such a tonic to the more aloof rock stars who don’t really seem to want to bond with their audiences, tonight he comes across like he would happily come home with each and every person in the hall.

What makes The Struts so impressive is that the awesome stage presence is augmented with brilliant material. The Struts make pop songs reformatted as rock tracks. They may all be driven by Adam Slacks furious guitar but God are they catchy as hell. It takes only a few seconds for anyone to know the chorus off by heart and they are so darn contagious that by the time it comes around again you find yourself singing along with gusto. It takes real talent to create music that manages to be both accessible and exquisitely created but The Struts have that talent in spades. They speed through their set with an unstoppable pace, in fact the only duff note of the night is the elongated cover of 'Dancing In the Dark' which starts to seriously drag due to Luke’s penchant to yammer away to the kids he has dragged up to sing along. Aside from that they are fantastic tonight and the addition of the white piano for 'One Night Only ‘and 'Ashes Part 2' makes you yearn for what they could do with a bigger production. The Struts still feel like an underground secret that it is a privilege to be in on. At some point they will go stellar, but not yet, for now they remain a covert pleasure that it is an utter joy to experience.

Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki