Let me get straight to the point. If you missed The Struts and The Glorious Sons concert Saturday night at the Palace Theatre, you missed not only the top show of the weekend. You missed the best show of the year! I know, even saying it was the best event of the weekend is a bold statement. July 12-13 was perhaps the Twin Cities’ busiest music weekend of the summer. You had 14,000 folks Friday and Saturday night in Minneapolis at the Basilica Block Party, 17,000 in Prior Lake each night for Lakefront Music Fest, plus more at Buck Hill’s Concert Series, and more at the Hook & Ladder Theater for the Roots, Rock & Deep Blues Festival. However, when frontman Luke Spiller asked us, “Are you ready for the greatest show on Earth?,” he was not exaggerating. No one, let me repeat, NO ONE, puts on a good old-fashioned rock show like The Struts. Plus, as Spiller announced to us, this sold out show was their biggest show yet as a headliner.
THE GLORIOUS SONS
First, let’s talk about the other important reason why I say this was the Twin Cities’ top concert of the year. Opening for The Struts was none other than The Glorious Sons. They’ve been one of the hottest bands in the US ever since they finally getting US radio airplay with “S.O.S. (Sawed Off Shotgun)”, and holding the #1 spot on several rock charts. For years, the Kingston, Ontario rockers have been a big deal in their native Canada. They’ve had nine top-10 Canadian rock songs and Young Beauties and Fools won a 2018 Juno (Canada’s Music Awards) for Rock Album of the Year. Gaining traction in the US has been more challenging though. It’s required relentless touring, often as a supporting act, to introduce their music to potential fans. Touring with The Struts is nothing new for the band as this perfect odd couple also toured together in 2018. When I had a chance to chat with frontman Brett Emmons in September, at the 7th Street Entry, he said they love touring with The Struts as they know they will always be playing for an energetic full house. This was definitely the case Saturday night in St. Paul.
As we walked into the beautifully air-conditioned, but already crammed Palace right at 8pm, we panicked when we could hear The Glorious Sons (TGS) already playing. What happened to the first opener, JJ Wilde? Based on her Twitter message, it sounds like the fellow Canadian artist might have had trouble getting a work permit to join the US tour. Sadly, this is the second time I didn’t get to see her. Fittingly, it was their new single “Panic Attack” playing as we hustled to avoid missing any of The Glorious Sons’ show. Based the crowd’s response, this new anthem is destined to be their next hit song in the US. I can’t wait to hear the rest of their upcoming album. Shifting to an older song, Emmons enjoyed getting the crowd to yell “White Noise” over and over again, which is an essential crowd duty for that song. The house also sang loudly to the well known “My Poor Heart” and “Mama”, leaving Emmons staring blankly in amazement at how well the St. Paul audience knew their songs. Emmons sings with rawness and emotion and always appears on the edge of doing something unexpected.
Some fellow countrymen in the crowd proudly held a large Canadian flag during the entire show and also batted several Canadian flag balloons above the crowd. Their abbreviated nine-song supporting set omitted TGS mainstays such as “The Union”, “Josie”, “Lightning”, “Heavy”, and even “Everything Is Alright”. But we did get their energetic cover of Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” they’ve been playing on this tour. We also got to hear a new song that has yet to be released, called “Who Killed the Rock ‘N Roller”. Then the song everyone was waiting for, “S.O.S. (Sawed Off Shotgun)”, with Emmons leaning out into the crowd. The final song was an extended version of “Kill the Lights”, with Emmons unleashing “crazy Brett” for some loud screams, then wildly shaking his long hair. At the end, Emmons looked out at the amazing crowd and said “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. We’ll be back soon! Keep this going with The Struts.” The crowd was hoping for more but understood the situation. Rest assured, they’ll be back for a headlining show once the new album is out.
Panic Attack / White Noise / Godless, Graceless and Young / My Poor Heart / Mama / Praise You / Who Killed the Rock ‘N Roller / S.O.S. (Sawed Off Shotgun) / Kill the Lights.
The Struts came to St. Paul straight from New York, after playing in Central Park Friday on Good Morning America. They opened with the spirited “Primadonna Like Me” from their latest album, YOUNG&DANGEROUS. Their fearless leader, Luke Spiller, immediately had the audience raise their hands and clap along. This type of crowd participation is always required by Spiller, and fans happily obliged for the entire evening. The dynamic frontman wore the same gold and black outfit he wore during their appearance in the Victoria’s Secret show. And now they played “Body Talks” for us like they did on the catwalk last November. After the wildly popular “Kiss This”, they played another song that’s hopefully destined for the 2019 V.S. show, “In Love With a Camera”. If they are writing these songs just for this purpose, all I can say is, “Brilliant!”
“Fire (Part 1)” was yet another from the new album. For this song, the very sweaty singer sat behind the sideways-facing upright piano for the first time, and stayed there to play “For One Night Only”. Remember those guys holding the Canadian flag, well they had now replaced it with special flag pairing the US flag with the Union Jack. Like the Struts claim, “Born in the UK. Made in America.” Picking up the pace again, Spiller asked, “Does anyone want to get dirty? Anyone want to get sexy? Who wants to dance?” Now the puppeteer had fans not only singing along but also gyrating to “Dirty Sexy Money.”
With the band’s expanding collection of songs, it’s not feasible to play each and every one in concert. They were able to tackle several more by rolling them into a medley consisting of “The Ol’ Switcheroo”, “Black Swan”, “Roll Up”, and “Young Stars”. After this frantic run through these high-paced songs, guitarist Adam Slack delivered an extended guitar solo while moving back and forth from one side of the stage to the other. Each time, really cool shadows of Adam were displayed on the tall side walls of the theatre. “Give the boy his due!” exclaimed Spiller, who often overshadows the other founding member of The Struts. The band joined Slack for likely their next hit song, “I Do It So Well”. It’s again super-catchy and a different type of Struts song that could cross-over genres more easily. During the song, Spiller halted things abruptly and shouted, “Where is Thomas?” When Thomas emerged, Spiller continued in his thick British accent, “It’s his birthday! And he’s been with us since day one.” A lighted birthday cake was brought out and the crowd sang “Happy Birthday Dear Thomas” to this dear member of their crew. “Now get off the stage!” Spiller teased.
Taking this break in the action to have a conversation with the crowd, Spiller said, “You know we’ve been around a long time now. We’ve been signed and we’ve been dropped. Back when our label rep would call me she would ask if I was still wearing the make-up, and told me it would only hurt my career.” As the crowd groaned in sympathy, Spiller continued with some edge, “You know what I told that bitch?” Queuing a restart of the song, Spiller sang even prouder, “Don’t I do it so well. I do it so well”.
The hard-working pair of drummer Gethin Davies and bassist Jed Elliott got a break next as Spiller and Slack played “Mary Go Round” as an acoustic duo. Before starting, Spiller told the crowd, “You have to sing too. Don’t be nervous, it’s just the two of us. But then technically a three-way.” Spiller let the crowd sing alone to the chorus and then helped out for a stronger finish. Again addressing the crowd, Spiller said, “You may have noticed that we just released a new single. We’ll play it, but only on the condition that you dance. So turn to the person you came with and ask them to dance. Next, tap a stranger and say, “Let’s boogie-woogie-woogie”.” The new song he is referred to was really an old song released in 1964. It was their cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing In the Street”. This song has also been covered by the likes of David Bowie and Mick Jagger, and Van Halen. Friday, it was The Struts version that was featured live on Good Morning America.
During the bombastic “Put Your Money on Me”, Spiller insisted that their largest crowd ever must be able to sing louder. He then had plenty of fun with the enthusiastic mass, alternating who sang the lines and who sang the (oh yeah)’s to “I bet your body’s so sweet (oh yeah).” The St. Paul crowd was already walking on water after being told they were the largest headlining show The Struts had ever played. Now, Spiller said they were searching for the loudest crowd on the tour. Making the most of their one try, the 2,400-strong screamed as loud as they could. The volume and decibel meter reading so impressed Spiller, that he exclaimed, “God Bless America!” Puff those chests out even further, St. Paul. You were also christened their loudest crowd yet, with a reading of 122.2 decibels. FYI, that is “airplane taking off” loud on the decibel meter chart. Of course there was also some friendly competition between Slack’s and Elliott’s sides of the room to see who was louder as when mimicking Spiller’s more and more creative vocalizations.
They also polled the crowd to find out who was seeing The Struts for the first time. With nearly half raising their hands, Spiller explained that this is the part of the show that the veterans would have to help the newbies with, as they create “human fireworks.” He got everyone in the Palace, from the main floor to the balcony, from young to old, to crouch down on the floor until the band was ready. Then in unison had everyone launch their bodies in the air for the start of “Where Did She Go.” Some even took it a step further in tossing yellow confetti in the air as they jumped. The finishing party was on!
Spiller returned to the stage by himself to begin the band’s encore. He sat at the piano and loudly played and sang his love ballad, “Somebody New”, before being rejoined by Slack, Elliott, and Davies to conclude with the radio hit that first introduced me to The Struts, “Could Have Been Me.” For those that missed the show, just know it could have been you. For those that were there with me, I know you are thinking of all of your friends you want bring with next time to experience the greatest show on Earth!
Primadonna Like Me / Body Talks / Kiss This / In Love With a Camera / Fire (Part 1) / One Night Only / Dirty Sexy Money / Tatler Magazine / Medley: The Ol’ Switcheroo – Black Swan – Roll Up – Young Stars / I Do It So Well / Mary Go Round / Dancing in the Street / Put Your Money on Me / Where Did She Go.
Encore: Somebody New / Could Have Been Me.