If you do a Google search of the phrase, “rock and roll is dead,” you’ll find a full page of listicles and opinion pieces arguing in favor. Big names like Bob Dylan and Forbes even agree. But, as usual, the big names aren’t paying attention—the genre is very much alive, thanks to bands like The Struts, The Wrecks, and Thunderpussy who slayed Tempe, Arizona’s Marquee Theatre on Friday night.
Shy concertgoers eyed Ruby Dunphy’s drums with suspicion before the Thunderpussy opened their set. But soon, all eyes were on vocalist Molly Sides. She was all over the stage with big dance moves while guitarist Whitney Petty and bassist Leah Julius ripped on either side of her through songs “Speed Queen,” “Velvet Noose,” and many more.
The group describes their live performances as “Beyonce meets Led Zeppelin,” coming together in a badass, give-no-shits callback to the 70s rock they try to emulate. And even halfway into the set, people in the crowd were looking the band up and exclaiming to each other, “They’re really good!”
Thunderpussy draws inspiration from Led Zeppelin, as well as artists like Heart and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! and are supporting their debut EP, Greatest Tits (amazing), and their eponymous debut album, both of which were released earlier this year. And after performances at this year’s SXSW, they are suddenly in the (deserved) spotlight and a group to watch.
The Wrecks took the stage next, a chaotic mess in the best way. Front man Nick Anderson crossed the stage, back and forth and back and forth, through a shortened setlist due to technical difficulties. Still, the band made its way through favorites from this year’s Panic Vertigo EP like “Figure This Out,” “Way With Words,” and breakout alt rock radio hit, “Favorite Liar.”
Anderson has a charismatic energy that has to cross over into everyday life—the man was made for a stage. He radiates passion but also a little mystery, and there’s no question why the female fans were screaming throughout the set.
Of course, The Wrecks put on a great show—we knew this already. But we didn’t know their latest setlist would include a cover of Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” which was a fitting choice as is but was spun into their own style and made more personal for the crowd as a result. A personal note: this fulfilled my dreams of seeing that song played live.
The Wrecks sent us off with “Favorite Liar,” obviously, and the now-full venue roared their approval. They set the bar high, and anticipation had the room buzzing.
It’s hard not to smile at the theatrics of The Struts. Fit for a stadium show, they have the sensibilities of their classic rock influences with a large helping of glamour. Case in point: Thick red velvet curtains hung in front of the Marquee stage and billowed teasingly in the minutes leading up to their set, and when they parted, frontman Luke Spiller and crew opened with “Primadonna Like Me.”
Spiller found Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall at a young age, and it still shows in his performer energy. Perhaps in an homage to the King of Pop, his first outfit was a red leather “Thriller”-esque jacket and pants—the first in a series of costumes that also included a shimmering red top with floor-length flowing sleeves and a silver glitter suit jacket and matching top hat. The man has got style.
He also plays piano and harmonica! Spiller, guitarist Adam Slack, bassist Jed Elliott, and drummer Gethin Davies all jammed out for some instrumental magic toward the end of the main set. And another cover made it into the list: “Dancing in the Dark,” glammed up and drawn out for a—get this—dancing crowd. A young girl was brought up on stage to groove with the band, and there wasn’t an unsmiling face in the venue.
Between the band’s British accents, Spiller’s antics, and the wild nature of The Struts’ live shows, the Friday night crowd was thoroughly entertained throughout the 16 song setlist. All the singles made it: “Kiss This,” “Put Your Money on Me,” “One Night Only,” and the latest, “Body Talks,” which was also the name of the tour. Multiple tracks from the brand new YOUNG&DANGEROUS are already popular, and putting all these songs together added to the feeling that this was a classic rock show full of the band’s greatest hits.
With a flourish, The Struts closed out their 3-song encore with “Could Have Been Me,” and they somehow found a way to amp up the energy levels even more before leaving it all on stage. What more would you expect from rock stars?
Story and photos by Taylor Gilliam