The oldest cliché in the entertainment business is the breakout success of the artist-in-waiting, unexpectedly summoned to the big stage. This is exactly what happened in 2014 for the young British rock band, The Struts. As a last-minute replacement, they were called upon to open for the Rolling Stones before 80,000 people in Paris. They’ve been in the spotlight ever since.
The Struts will headline this Friday evening before a sold-out crowd at the newly christened Opera House Ballroom. The show is the first in a series of Ballroom concerts that will be produced by Latitude 38 Entertainment, the producer of Napa’s annual BottleRock festivals.
The band is fronted by Luke Spiller, a model-handsome, big-voiced extrovert with a penchant for make-up and androgynous attire, who is being regarded in the lineage of Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger and David Bowie. He and his band are throwbacks, glam rockers that make hook-filled, guitar-driven hit records, and are riveting live.
Latitude 38 CEO Dave Graham said that The Struts had more than 15,000 fans at the main stage at BottleRock 2016. This was extraordinary for a mid-afternoon time slot. In a recent interview, Graham raved about the band. “They are making rock cool again. They remind people of just how big rock used to be. Their music is incredible and their performance is even better.”
Graham talked about Spiller’s charisma. “He’s got that star quality, that something special about him and his presence, and the way that he interacts with the crowd, the way in which he moves, the way in which he reads a room, the energy he gives off, his look. In all of those areas, he’s just unique. I think if there’s any band on the planet right now that can make rock really, really cool again, it’s The Struts.”
On the phone from Los Angeles last week, 28 year-old Spiller described the experience of opening for the Rolling Stones. “When they (the Stones) were set to play Paris, there was another band that was meant to open for them and they had to pull out like two weeks before,” he said. “All of a sudden we get this call saying they want us to support the Stones, which was a really total surprise and a fantastic experience. It was a good show…very surreal… and it’s safe to say, I think, that that one thirty minute slot at that gig changed our lives.”
Spiller gave a long and not surprising list of his influences, including Michael Jackson, James Brown, Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger. “Being the singer and the front man is a completely different gig from being the lead guitar player or bassist or whatever you are,” he said. “It is a lot more intense, and a lot is riding on you. I think you have to have a certain kind of personality to carry that off.
“Out of all those musicians, I think Freddie Mercury is the one I probably studied the most. He had great taste, and he was very kind of classic in what he enjoyed. He wasn’t afraid to completely be himself. In some ways he was like a little bit different from the rest of his band. I think that’s what made them so magical. I can definitely identify with that.”
Spiller has publicly said that he wants The Struts to be the biggest rock band in the world. “That’s definitely our vision,” he said. “I think you can hear that in the music. I don’t think there’s anything really that can stop us as long as we keep our heads down and keep ourselves grounded, and work as hard as we possibly humanly can.
“We’re just trying to top everything that we’ve done previously. I think we can do it. I’m not ashamed to say that. I don’t think it’s an arrogant thing, I think it’s more of a matter of self-belief.”
“What’s the point if you are not going to challenge anything,” Spiller added. “What’s the point if you’re just going to be like, ‘Oh great, I’m in a band now, now I can play to x number of people for the next ten, or dare I say twenty years?’ We’re not like that. We want to be a stadium band, we want to be the biggest band in the world.”
The Struts are lead vocalist Luke Spiller, guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies.
Canadian alt-rockers Black Pistol Fire and local blues-rockers The Iron Heart will open the show.
Friday, Nov. 4, 8:30 p.m., doors open 8 p.m. General admission, $20. Opera House Ballroom. 1030 Main St., Napa. 707 603-1258. BlueNoteNapa.com.