Norfolk, Virginia (July 8, 2018) – The sun is setting in this Virginia waterside Naval town as I head to The NorVa for tonights show. The 100° heat wave from the week before is taking a dip into the 70’s for the weekend which makes the night even more enjoyable. Walking into The NorVa I arrive just in time to head up front for the beginning of American rock band Badflower’s set, who are opening tonight for The Struts.
The crowd roars as the California based musicians come on stage and demand an early connection with the crowd. The fun and energetic stage presence of bassist Alex Esperitu caught my attention first, as he slung his bass around the stage without missing a note.
Quick, pose for the vanity!
Clack clack with your high heels!
Quit messin’ with the boys head!
Learn to love yourself, or drop dead
The title “Ghost” takes on the subject of suicide while being craftily embedded in a beautiful tempo.
I am impressed with the deeply emotional and descriptive lyrics. They remind me of goth rock legends The Cure who also wrap dark messages in beautiful rock melodies. The contrast is warm and cold at the same time and builds a quick bond with listeners who may have had similar life experiences.
”I felt a lot of pain but it didn’t stop my heart.” Katz sang … “I tried it like before and this time I made a deep cut.”
The song structures accent the lyrics perfectly and that is being reflected in the audience’s response as each member of the band interacts throughout their set.
In my many years of going to live shows, I have witnessed bands that just play their songs and don’t make a connection with the crowd. Then there are bands like Badflower that give the crowd what they came for.
Seeing lead guitarist Joey Morrow’s face peek through his long curly locks as he sang backing vocals on a few songs was a prime example of the passion on display for the people who came to see them.
The loud driving chorus of the recently released track “Heroin” compares a seriously heartbreaking relationship with the use of the powerfully addictive drug that ruins so many lives.
Other familiar crowd favorites sparked cheers including when they began to play “Soap” from their 2015 first EP.
The band is composed of singer/guitarist Josh Katz, lead guitarist Joey Morrow, bass guitarist Alex Espiritu and drummer Anthony Sonetti.
Badflower is signed to Big Machine Records/ John Varvatos Records and was named Artist of the Week by Apple Music after the release of their EP Temper in 2016. Their debut studio album is scheduled for release in 2018.
Four tickets to the United States
About 30 minutes pass between the end of the Badflower set and the lights dim to start The Struts opening song. Hundreds of people scream with anticipation as the lights slowly fade back on.
Drummer, Gethin Davies enters stage right and the crowd again erupts. Then bassist Jed Elliot enters the stage and waves to the front row who enjoyed the specialized attention. Next the band’s co-founder and guitarist Adam Slack walks on stage with a huge grin at the crowd’s reaction.
But the party really starts with one of today’s most entertaining frontmen comes on the stage.
Vocalist Luke Spiller enters stage right and The NorVa goes wild. Luke is wearing a orange pants and jacket outfit with long white fringe dangling from the arms and a black and gold sequined shirt underneath.
That singer is Luke Spiller.
This man’s style and demeanor embody what a rock musician should be. Confident, kind, and all-out entertaining. Not only can he sing but he can easily get the crowd to become part of the show. His seemly choreographed stage moves can only be described as amazing.
Your eyes follow like a spotlight
Two eyes like the sun
Go ahead keep your distance from me
Soon you’re going to come
Your lips are a conversation
That face is a song
If it’s my imagination
Stop me if I’m wrong”
Throughout the show, Luke expresses the extreme gratitude he has for everyone coming to the shows on this tour. He stated, ‘“Back in the UK we released a new record last year and no one cared.” “Here we are playing the shows of our lives.”
Next, the band rocked through their 2017 anthem ”One Night Only” which had the sickest 80’s rock vibes that had the entire crowd rocking there heads to the chorus.
“I’ll give you one night only
For your eyes only
If entertaining’s what you want
Then honey, I’m the best
I know that we’re together
For all your pleasure
Forever, forever, forever
This is how we burn”
The Struts have some of the greatest chorus sing-alongs of modern times. For example, the next song of the night “The Ol’ Switcheroo” from the album Everybody Wants has super addictive lyrics that you cant forget.
Showcasing their very unique sound The Struts slowed it down a notch with “Let’s Make This Happen Tonight” (2014) Everybody Wants which has a 60’s vibe that makes me want to clap along. Fire (Part 1) a new song by the band, got the crowds hearts back pumping fast with Luke covering the entire stage from left to right and back again.
Huge highlight surprise of the night was a surprise cover song. Dancing in the Dark and toward the end Luke actually picked a lady from the crowd to come up on stage and reenact Courtney Cox’s part in the iconic video. That was a surprising crowd pleaser from the UK formed band.
“I know I’ve got a bad bad reputation
I’m not afraid to look a girl right in the eye
And so I’ll tell you for your information
Just know I’m not that kind of guy”
Once again Luke thanks the crowd for all their support. He asked if they come back to The Norva again would they all come to see the show to which the crowd cheers and claps. Luke says, “You know Dave Grohl recently was in the UK and doing an interview and he said that we were the best band there have every have on tour with them and he didn’t know why the people there didn’t give them more love.” (The Struts were the supporting act for The Foo Fighters 2017 U.S. tour.)
He said after the poor response to their record in the UK last year they just bought 4 plane tickets to Los Angeles.
The rest is history.
During a quick jam-like interlude between the rest of the band, Luke leaves the stage but moments later he returns wearing a gold sparkly outfit and hat,
Spiller tells the crowd he needs to get the last bit of dance energy out of them because the end of the show is near. He said, “You know we are making a music video soon with a very famous female singer, I can’t say who it is yet but it’s going to be amazing“.
He said, “We don’t have money for pyrotechnics or even confetti yet to throw all over but we have YOU, You are gonna be our fireworks. All of you!“
Luke proceeds to ask everyone in the standing room only The NorVa floor to actually kneel down or sit before they start the next song. And the rocking intro to the bands “Where Did She Go” hit started he had everyone jump up on cue for their final dance.
“Oh oh oh give me the time
Give me the clock ’cause
I want it back the way it was”
Put Your Hands Up
One Night Only
The Ol’ Switcheroo
Primadonna Like Me
Dirty Sexy Money
Let’s Make This Happen Tonight
Fire (Part 1)
Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Put Your Money on Me
Could Have Been Me
Where Did She Go
Kiss This EP Virgin EMI April 7
Have You Heard August 2015 Interscope
Live and unplugged March 3 2017 Interscope
The Struts are:
Vocals – Luke Spiller
Bass – Jed Elliot
Drums – Gethin Davies
Guitar – Adam Slack
Photojournalist: Ken Penn