The Darkness are on tour so we’re out to see ‘em. That’s kind of how it’s worked since their timeless ‘Permission To Land’ album came out all those years ago. We love a bit of ‘Darkness!
The band have gone through a few ups and downs over the years. The first time this CB writer ever saw The Darkness was back in the early 2000’s at Cardiff University where triple figures of cash was handed over to a tout cashing in on a band that were damn hot at the time. Since them we’ve seen them ride out on a massive pair of tits to half empty arenas, go away, comeback, do the re-union thing, do the new album thing and just this year… do the bloody brilliant new album thing.
Judging by that tent at Download earlier this year, people are interested in this band again.
First up, it is The River 68’s however.
Not a conventional warm-up for a big rock show by any means. As the McCabe brothers stroll out with one acoustic guitar between them, we’re tricked into thinking that this is some elaborate understated entrance. Any minute now the other band members are going to burst onto the stage and erupt into full on chaos… aren’t they?
It might not be what we were expecting, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like it, mind you.
They sound chuffed to be playing the legendary Rock City. Last time they were in Nottingham they played the Rescue Rooms to three people, apparently.
While an acoustic duo may not be the ideal act for a well-oiled crowd arriving to see a big rock show, The River 68’s get on with their business with no dramas. The place is a little noisy for their more tender take on rock’n’roll but they receive some big applause after every song and there are plenty hanging on every word down at the front.
The Darkness strut onstage to a packed out venue screaming its lungs out. Opener ‘Barbarian’ gives Justin an early opportunity to return the squeals as it has one of the highest pitched choruses of the year. An early test for the vocal chords before it is head first into a couple of old favourites. ‘Black Schuck’ and ‘Growing On Me’ really get things underway for the night.
There are several things to note about The Darkness at present. They seem marginally more serious than is traditional. Justin still likes to talk a bit of nonsense and likes to have a bit of a clown around, but it’s certainly a bit more about the music these days. The show, compared to olden days is very stripped back, apart from some fancy lights there’s not much else you can call over the top. There are certainly no cat-suits in sight, anyway.
They certainly have the catalogue of songs to pull that approach off. Some hits of old, some new stuff and some that you maybe weren’t expecting. ‘Rack Of Glam’ is a fresh cut that we’ve never heard live before; Frankie gets to sing too, which we’ve not seen much of in the past. Justin gets the wee piano out for a couple of tracks, rivalling Zakk Wylde for the mid-set sit down session and most impressively of all is the cowbell at the beginning of ‘One Way Ticket…’. Front of the stage and everything. We are easily pleased, though.
If the lack of distractions in the present show does anything, it is to demonstrate just how good they are. Dan Hawkins has always got on with his job quietly at the side of the stage but hearing him rip out the riffs one after the other is mind-blowing. The power of the guitar is a wondrous thing!
New(ish) drummer Rufus is introduced to the crowd, Justin does a tem minute sales pitch on the USB sticks they are selling and even offers to gets his cock out a one point. Thankfully, he doesn’t, but the banter, as they say; is good!
Any complaints? Well, there is no ‘Open Fire’ which is the greatest song the band have written since their debut album; but you can probably blame the early Rock City curfew for that one.
Oh, and this may be the new stripped back Darkness but we were expecting some snow in the double Christmas encore. There are a few props onstage for ‘I Am Santa’ which sees The River 68’s come back to help out and then the classic ‘Christmas Time (Don’t let the bells end)’ sees us off into the night.
It may be a slightly different Darkness than we are used to but they still know how to deliver a great show. A top evening of entertainment and we might just have our first fluttering of Christmas spirit thanks to that encore. Don’t let the bells end!