By now — 15 years after their formation — everyone going to see The Darkness in concert should have a pretty good idea about what to expect, which explains how frantically excited your average Darkness fan is to see their heroes onstage. Current-day concert staples, like visuals and projections taking the lead over physical antics, or an attempt to make all of one’s instruments as virtual or digital as possible, are absolutely abandoned in favor of a glorious, visceral display of rock-and-roll shenanigans. There are wild solos, there are hair flips, there are leaps and bounces off of the drumset, and everything about the gig feels absolutely alive. Neither a smallish crowd, nor a Sunday night timeslot (typically less favorable with the work week looming shortly after), could deter the Suffolk quartet from rocking just as hard as they have ever done, and it was delightful to witness.
There was, in fact, one extra hiccup that happened to the show at the last second: opening act These Raven Skies had unexpectedly dropped off the evening’s bill, so local act The Headlands was picked to open instead. Despite being almost entirely unknown, they welcomed the chance to perform with gusto, bringing their own intriguing blend of old-school rock, prog-style jams, and folk-minded melodies to the stage in a short but entertaining set. By the end of the set, a good chunk of the audience was dancing and bouncing along to the groovy tunes, and the players onstage fed off their new fans’ energy with glowing, joyous vigor.
Where The Headlines’ performance was rather circumspect given the lively nature of their sound, The Darkness marched onto the stage with a confidence and fury that was as aggressive as it was magnificent to see. All four members knew, from the moment the stage lights threw them into sharp relief, that they held the audience in the palms of their hands, and spent every moment onstage casting this knowledge into their crazed and excellent showmanship. Most admired — and most wise of his role as commander-in-chief of the ensemble onstage — was singer Justin Hawkins, whose every jaunt, expression, and shockingly powerful vocal delivery was delivered with the force of a rampant hurricane. He pranced, he bowed, he swung, he leapt, and he sang loud and proud, with the crowd holding onto every single movement with feverish joy.
The Darkness blazed through their set, comprised of tunes both very old and freshly crafted, with barely a pause or interruption, as if all of the energy they’d burst onto the scene with had been fully restored to them and they had only one night in which to focus it all. From old classics (“Black Shuck”, “Love Is Only A Feeling”, “Get Your Hands Off My Woman”) to cult favorites (“One Way Ticket”, “Every Inch Of You”) and even new numbers (“Barbarian”, “Mudslide”, and the as-yet-unrecorded “Rack Of Glam”), every moment of the Darkness’ set fused together tightly into nearly two hours of marvelous rock mayhem, with something for absolutely everyone in attendance. After closing their set with their massive hit “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”, the band tore into their encore with “Open Fire” and their rollicking cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”, and Hawkins rode through the crowd, astride the shoulders of a security guard, while churning out the riffs for “Love On The Rocks With No Ice” to finally bring and end to the show.
15 years ago, I was only interested in seeing The Darkness for the pure spectacle of their act, convinced that they would be a flash in the pan and their live act so riddled with jokes that it would fall flat when the humor ran out. After many long years of missing chances to see them, I was excited that my expectations were absolutely demolished by the four men that comprise one of the most exciting live acts, who continues chugging forwards with their marvelous modern take on classic-arena-style rock, paying no heed to any expectations to change up or “transform” their sound. The Darkness’ formula of wonderfully fun rock-and-roll, with a rabidly energetic live show to match, is something truly magical, and one that absolutely everyone should see before their final days.
Additional photos from the show below. All photos © 2015 Jonathan Pirro.