The Darkness are a unique band and one not entirely understood by everyone. We should start by dispelling a few illusions. Firstly, they are not a comedy band: If they were, they would not have the talent that they do and their songs would not be as catchy and lyrically mainstream. Secondly, they are not a one man band. Despite Justin Hawkins’ charisma and outrageous onstage persona, the rest of the band still has significant presence on record and live.
Fortunately, everyone at this gig knew what they were getting into and were ready to rock and enjoy the show. Support act Strangers did an admirable job of trying to get the crowd active, however, they were severely hampered by sound problems which for much of their set left the audience unable to hear the vocalist. At one point it was so bad that those who turned around to see the sound engineer saw him throw his arms up in frustration and look like he was about to burst into tears. Still they soldiered on and their efforts were appreciated by the growing crowd, many of whom were already enjoying what the bar had on offer.
On then to the main act, who came out firing. Justin in a tweed three piece suit launched himself onto the stage and his feet barely touched the ground for the next three songs. So it went for much of the rest of the gig: Justin belting it out in a note-perfect performance; Dan and Justin shredding it with some face melting guitar work; Ed Graham’s pounding drum work keeping the whole band pushing forwards; and Frankie Poullain strutting and gesticulating onstage in a somewhat embarrassing display of uncoolness. Playing a set of songs representative of both of their already released albums and including some tracks off their upcoming record, this was a crowd-pleasing set, particularly with the inclusion of a cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”. Also getting the crowd on board was Justin’s solo acoustic rendition of “Holding My Own” which took on extra poignancy given Hawkins’ troubles over the past few years.
Throughout, the band gelled, they worked the stage and they worked the crowd into a frenzy, no more than on two occasions. Firstly when Justin mounted a security guard’s shoulders to ride through the crowd with his guitar (reminiscent of their last Thebby performance) and secondly in the whole audience singalong at the end of “Get Your Hands Off My Woman.”
This is a band who knows where their appeal lies and who makes sure they maximise their appeal every time they hit the stage. It has been a turbulent few years since their last appearance on our shores in 2006. The Darkness has overcome all of these difficulties and has come out the other side as strong as ever. This gig bodes well for their upcoming album and this is one reviewer who will be buying it and learning all of the songs so he is prepared to sing along with Justin and co. when they next grace us with their presence.