Originally Published in The Buffalo News
July 26, 2019
By Michael Farrell
Since Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed coined the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll” in 1951, decades of performers have become legends under the genre banner. And whether with their sound, specific songs or onstage theatrics, some of these icons have made an indelible impression on the generations of musicians.
With this noted, it is understandable that some bands intentionally or unintentionally mimic the work of their influences. Is it glaringly derivative? Yes—but if you’re going to be imitative, it helps to be good at it. Those who attended the July 25 guitar-lovers bill of the Struts and Glorious Sons (with opener Bones UK) at Canalside found two acts that expertly awakened echoes of a litany of rock royalty, while putting their own stamp on the work with entertaining performances.
For Derby, England’s The Struts, the comparisons are easy. Those familiar with the band’s 2016 breakthrough “Everybody Wants” can assign alignment with everyone from Motley Crue to the Bay City Rollers.
Listen to frontman Luke Spiller and you’ll immediately tab him as a Freddie Mercury disciple. Watch him work a stage, and you’ll assume he learned his craft by practicing the move-by-move progressions of Mick Jagger.
These comparisons are there for the taking, but here’s the catch: Spiller — along with guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott and drummer Gethin Davies — are skilled and seasoned enough to validate these likenesses as more than just lazy association.
And after grinding along for 10 years, they’re now budding rock stars, with polished musicianship and lyrics infectious enough to be giddily recited by fans off the Buffalo River.
From the first note of its set-opening “Primadonna Like Me” (off last year’s “Young and Dangerous”) to its encore performance of the anthemic “Could’ve Been Me,” the Struts’ Spiller relentlessly worked the stage, pairing Jagger swagger — appropriately fashioned on the band’s cover of the Jagger-covered Vandellas’ classic, “Dancing in the Street” — with his own costumed panache.
Fan favorites like “Kiss This” and “Put Your Money on Me” were delivered with the same moxie available on record as Spiller danced and repetitiously directed the night’s crowd through each hit.
With the Glorious Sons, the direct linkage to rock forefathers wasn’t as heavy-handed as the night’s headliner, but it was there and presented in punctuated fashion.
Led with the grunge-era flair of frontman Brett Emmons, the Kingston, Ont., sextet blasted through a 10-song set of work off its three albums including its forthcoming September release, “A War on Everything.” And entertaining a heavily Canadian contingent on what equated to quasi-home turf, the band had performance moments so potent that unfamiliar attendees could be forgiven for thinking the band was the night’s final act.
From its sets eventual lead-in to rousing single “White Noise,” the hirsute Emmons thrashed across the stage between impassioned vocals and dual guitar riffs from Jay Emmons and Chris Koster. In both barefoot appearance and swaying histrionics, the singer evoked memories of late Blind Melon voice, Shannon Hoon — if Hoon had the guttural growl to front a greasy rock extravaganza.
That’s where the comparisons end and the Glorious Sons emerged, with the fist-pumping choruses of new single “Panic Attack,” addiction-related sing-along “S.O.S (Sawed Off Shotgun)” and Emmons’ banshee wail on the set closer, “Kill the Lights.”
Kicking off the night for early arrivals was London duo, Bones UK. Delivering an amplified blast that veered between inventive blues and punk-rock snarl, the team of Rosie Bones and Carmen Vandenberg helped to set the night’s Fender-fueled mayhem in motion.
The Struts, The Glorious Sons
July 25 at Canalside