Rock Sins ventures to Shepherd’s Bush Empire to see The Darkness on their penultimate date of the 22 date UK tour. With initial trepidation after hearing the news of Massive Wagons pulling out of the London dates due to someone in their camp contracting the dreaded C word, we wouldn’t be surprised with the dates being pulled. However, the music gods allowed the Christmas miracle, with Kris Barras as a last minute replacement and the two nights in London commenced!
Opening proceedings with a new track Welcome Tae Glasgae, a short but sweet track, which is perfect to make the excitement palatable. They continue to keep the crowd in the palm of their hands, as they launch into two of the band’s hits One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back and crowd favourite Growing On Me. The band settled into their set with another new track from their new album, Motorheart ,with the track of the same name. Ever since their reformation in 2011 the band have produced consistently strong albums, yes they may not achieve the success of their debut album, but the new tracks fit perfectly into their canon of songs. This is proven with other new album tracks It’s Love, Jim and Sticky Situations, finding their way in the 21 song set.
The band is sounding tight, with Rufus Taylor behind the kit and Frankie Poullain on bass. The Hawkins brothers look like they are thoroughly enjoying themselves as Justin Hawkins the ever vervaticious frontman struts his stuff around the stage. His voice has certainly aged like a fine wine, hitting those high notes with no problem at all.
Further crowd pleasers Black Shuck and Friday Night turn the crowd into a mass sing along, however it is not until power ballad Love Is Only A Feeling, with the drum intro leading everyone into a clap along that Freddie Mercury would be jealous of, when the night really gets started. The band shifted gears again after reaching a crescendo with tracks like Barbarian and Get Your Hands Off My Woman the latter showing Hawkins’ athleticism by doing a handstand on top of the drum riser.
As the gig draws to a close we all know what songs we are waiting for… you know the one, something to do with believing in love? Hawkins builds anticipation before the song by noodling around on his guitar. He stops to address the crowd, now with the air of another potential lockdown looming over the UK and the stopping of live music again, Hawkins tells everyone to take a moment as this could be their last gig for a long time. He pleads the audience for this song to put their phones down and just take in the moment. The crowd obliged, and I can honestly say I did not see any phones. Then over the silence, the infamous guitar riff rings out! I Believe In A Thing Called Love creates the biggest singalong of the night, but that was no surprise considering how often this track is used for TV adverts, covers, and the like. The infectious nature of this song creates an atmosphere to remember, if this is the last time we see a gig for a while we are going out with a bang.
Now The Darkness, if you didn’t know, aside from I Believe In A Thing Called Love, have another chart topping hit… their festive banger: Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End). With it being just over a week until the big day we expected this to make a feature in their set and we were not disappointed, the band appearing on stage in full Christmas regaler. Justin Hawkins takes to the mic sporting a lovely Christmas hat and cat suit to belt out some classics from Cliff Richard to Wham. Frankie Poullain wears a festive sumo suit… and Dan dons a Marshall Christmas Jumper. Even drummer, Rufus Taylor is in a full Christmas Tree suit, although it certainly looked like the air holes in the suit were not the best, as he walked off stage looking like he was going to pass out. The whole room went home full of festive cheer, the band even bought snow with them.
Call them what you will, Cock Rock, Queen rip offs, The Darkness divides opinion amongst music fans and critics alike. Marmite to many, love them or hate them you’ll know when you’ve seen these guys live. They truly brought rock and festive cheer all wrapped in a Darkness shaped ball. If you ever get the chance to see this band go and see them, you will leave with a smile on your face. They bring all the rock cliches on the surface but if you scratch just a modicum more you get a fantastic rock band with ingenious songs and lyrics.