It has been nineteen months since The Darkness staged their comeback and played a Download warm up gig at Shepherds Bush Empire which showcased hints of promising new material. That was a humbling, stripped back to basics experience, which experimented with the unconditional love they hoped for from their starved loyal fan-base. Perfecting the new album seemed to drag for a while, but with “Hot Cakes” finally on our plates, the sweet smell of triumph has put the “D” back in “Arkness”.
The Ginger Wildheart Band was up first and despite the heavy sounds and nifty guitar licks, the audience, bar a few, were not exactly getting warmed up. Repeatedly in the music news for campaigning to revolutionize the music business by financing a triple album project via Pledge Music, Ginger was the charismatic frontman with his slicked quiff and connected with his audience. He and his friends commanded the stage well and their performance was mesmerising. Perhaps this was why there was so little movement in the crowd. Personally, I was struck by Ginger’s blonde vocalist by his side, a flipperty jibbet of a woman with a heaving bosom; dancing about as if she was twelve. Maybe I wasn’t struck, just embarrassed for her.
Brothers in arms; risen again; hand in hand, The Darkness greeted their audience under a pink and purple halo before “Every Inch of You” exploded, confirming that this gig was going to be loud and ballsy. Granting himself a one costume only allowance, Justin Hawkins was a confectioner’s dream, looking seductively like a giant humbug in lycra with a plunged neckline straight to the crotch. Taught and tattooed, he was as ever, the cocky, eccentric rock star with effortless style and the voice of an angel. With brother Dan (guitar) in his signature Thin Lizzy t-shirt; faithful pup Frankie Poullain (bass) and Ed (drums), the performance was slick and tireless, only punctuated occasionally by Justin’s dry appreciation of his crowd. “Thanks for the chanting. It makes me feel like a million pounds!” he remarked after the band had ripped through “Black Shuck”, “Growing On Me”, “She’s Just A Girl Eddie” , “One Way Ticket” and “Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us”.
The party romped along with the defiant territorial intent of “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” and Justin’s gymnastic display for the evening which included jumping knee splits and a prolonged handstand, legs akimbo, in-front of Ed’s drum kit.
A decadent mix of old and current songs took the audience on The Darkness journey with the ultimate flashback to the most successful of their history, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”. This one confirmed that a show doesn’t have to sell out in order to lift the roof off a building! An eventful encore followed with a lengthy “silent” drum solo from Ed and “Love on the Rocks with No Ice” heralding Justin’s familiar crowd walk, this time, high on his brother’s shoulders, before dismounting to surf the pit. Tempted to hang on to him for just a little too long, the crowd proceeded to wave him further away from the stage despite his first request to “Take me back now please.”
The last months of international touring has defined the band’s new live stage show and despite the lack of props, costume changes and pure pantomime, it is no less entertaining than when they were first granted permission to land. In fact, less is more. The truth is, The Darkness have come back and are obviously here to stay. Whether you liked them in the first place or not is no matter. They are as much an English staple as meat and two veg.
Aspects of this review can also be found at http://www.stereoboard.com