The Struts + Cardinal Black @ O2 Institute, Birmingham – Wednesday 13th July 2022


Cardinal Black, the new band featuring much lauded guitarist Chris Buck, turns out to be very much his old band with more than a decade of history behind them with Buck, vocalist Tom Hollister & drummer Adam Roberts having originally playing together in Tom Hollister Trio. Reconvening during lockdown, an EP is already out and recording of their debut is well underway.

Cardinal Black

On their first song, ‘Rise Up’ it’s apparent that Buck’s emotive and tasteful guitar is a perfect foil to Hollister’s soul drenched powerhouse vocals. ‘Tell Me How It Feels’ and ‘Jump In’ continue in much the same vein, adding harmony vocals into the mix and ‘Warm Love’ is nothing short of captivating.

They finish on a couple of pure blues numbers with the smouldering ‘I’m Ready’ that sees Chris Buck take centre stage for a scorching solo. Cardinal Black have been a revelation and I await the release of their album and headline shows with great anticipation.

Cardinal Black

The Struts are a good time rock ‘n’ roll band with a poppier edge that sets them firmly in the same territory as the likes of The Darkness and Cheap Trick. The rise of the Derby based band has been relatively quick, and there aren’t many of their contemporaries that can currently complete O2 Academy sized tours. This is in part due to some high profile support slots over the years and undoubtedly the exuberant stage personality and talent of frontman Luke Spiller. It is also noticeable that the packed Institute is made up of a predominantly younger demographic, and while there are the older fans, it the younger ones that are driving their popularity.

The Struts

‘Primadonna Like Me’ kicks off with Adam Slack picking out a Stones-like riff before Luke Spiller makes his energetic entrance wasting no time in engaging with the audience, encouraging them to jump up and down and sing along. It doesn’t take much to get them going. With many of their studio tracks featuring guests and having polished production, it’s probably not surprising that live they seem to rock a little harder and this is particularly apparent on ‘Body Talks’.

Mid set sees the lights intentionally turned off for ‘Mary Go Round’ relying on the crowds phones to light the venue. A suitably heavy cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ see Luke play keys (cunningly disguised as a large white piano) while Slack takes centre stage for the solo. Having just included a medley of their own songs it does seem a little perplexing to follow with a cover.

The Struts

‘I Do It So Well’ is a distinctive song with an insistent bassline from Jed Elliot which allows them to draw out the track as long as is needed depending on the crowd to bring the main set to a rousing finale. As much as Thunder’s ‘Dirty Love’ became their signature tune, the same could be said of ‘I Do It So Well’ for The Struts with plenty of crowd participation. At one point Spiller encourages everyone to sit down, to which the entirety of the downstairs are complicit, and all leaping up at the same moment on his command.

The encore of ‘Strange Days’ really is a case of saving the best until last. It’s a perfect song structure that builds from Spiller’s solo keyboard intro into a loud rocker when the full band kick in and features a blistering solo from Adam Slack. It then ends as it began with Spiller on the keys. The loud and anthemic sing-a-long of ‘Could Have Been Me’ is the ideal way to finish and send and elated and exhausted crowd into the night.

Primadonna Like Me
Body Talks
Kiss This
I Hate How Much I Want You
Fire (Part 1)
One Night Only
Dirty Sexy Money
Low Key in Love
Mary Go Round
Put Your Money on Me
Medley: Put Your Hands Up / These Times Are Changing / Bulletproof Baby / All Dressed Up (With Nowhere to Go) / Only Just a Call Away / Where Did She Go
Wicked Game
Wild Child
I Do It So Well

Strange Days
Could Have Been Me