I love a good old Rock n Roll show on a Friday night and if anyone one band can provide just that it has to be The Darkness…..or is it ? The Darkness as a band have been, shall we say, more than a little low-profile of late and so the trip to Scunthorpe tonight could have been either a huge let down, or it could have been the re-kindling of something great. I say great because I first saw The Darkness at the height of their platinum selling fame some ten years ago (yes, T-E-N – count ‘em) and I loved them, their music, the show and the huge dose of camp that went with them. Would they be the same ? Well, more later.
The night started off with a band called The River68’s which was essentially an acoustic rock duo comprising of two acoustic guitarists, one of whom played the stage like a drum and the other who wore a fabulous rock hat, the like of which has not been seen on a UK stage since Micky Moody graced us with his presence in Whitesnake.
Being an opening band in what is basically a (very well) converted swimming pool could have been fraught with a lack of audience, but the crowd tonight warmed to the two guys on stage and gave them a great reception – and rightly so. The River 68’s music is really very, very good. With a laid back sound reminiscent of Led Zep and others of that ilk, this stripped back version of the full band gave the Scunthorpe crowd their full attention and were rightly rewarded for the efforts.
Following this opener was a three piece from Derby called Lostalone. Two supports I hear you say ? Well yes, and what great value the two were. Lostalone come from the same management stable as Enter Shikari and are currently tipped in many polls as the ones to watch in 2014. I for one can’t dispute that assertation after tonight’s performance. With music ranging from pure hard rock to more pop-edged crowd pleasers, the three guys from Lostalone really wowed the audience and provided a real foundation for the main act. One thing you do notice with this band is that their lead singer and guitarist Steven Battelle is like a hyperactive kid. To say he is non-stop is an understatement; from throwing himself around the stage and rubbing the neck of his Gibson SG along said stage, to jumping into the pit and playing from the barriers,. You never know where he is going to be next ! One thing I would say however is that Mr Battelle did get a bit Spinal Tap at one stage; I still don’t understand what his weird twin neck style guitar does, but he “had it built especially for this song” –
This of course all adds to the excitement and all of a sudden the perfect Friday night Rock n Roll show is taking shape. So what would The Darkness be like ? Would they capture the atmosphere of old ? Would Justin make his appearance in a large pair of comedy breasts (he did on the Permission to Land tour) ? – well we were about to find out.
With the entrance music being The Boys are Back in Town I reckon The Darkness had a point to make and that point was not lost on the audience tonight. To say they went wild would be understating it a touch and although the comedy breasts were nowhere to be seen, the band arrived on stage hands linked with a back light that gave them all a slight golden tinge reminiscent of the Ready Brek kids.
Now don’t get me wrong, if the guy before was slightly Spinal Tap, then the Darkness guys would appear to be the “Tap” personified – but for me they are the absolute opposite. For why ? well for one The Darkness are great musicians where (the fictional) Spinal Tap were generally awful and although they have high camp down to a fine art, the one thing that separates The Darkness from The Tap is that The Darkness never suffer from the delusion of seriousness and for the most part play with tongue deftly wedged in cheek.
Taking the stage, Justin Hawkins, announced that the gig that night would be split in to two halves, first the other stuff and then, because it had been released ten years ago, they would play their biggest selling album Permission to Land in full for the second half. For me this was a real gift as I really didn’t like much of what they did after that first album and so to hear it in its entirety was going to be something to really look forward to – it even made it worthwhile sitting through the “other” stuff first.
It has to be said that the first half of the set was mostly un-eventful, musically. Some tracks I recognised and I really enjoyed the shenanigans on stage, but the highlight of the first half didn’t come from the music, rather it came from Justin Hawkins taking a firm stance against somebody filming him from a mobile. I personally find the activity of said filming to be both pointless and irritating, indeed it has got so bad that at a gig recently a woman on the front row had filmed much of the set with an ipad ! Although I can and do mutter and grumble about it, I generally do nothing about it and although I would love to say or do something, nothing prepared me for the way Mr Hawkins dealt with the problem in a very direct and unforgettable manner.
As he stopped the final song of the first set he asked if he could have said offending phone and when the owner of the phone (and I bet he regretted this later) passed it over to him, Mr Hawkins announced he would be performing a colonoscopy with said phone. At this stage I will leave this aspect of the show, but needless to say, said procedure was pretty much carried out, live on stage and I for one (and I was not alone) didn’t stop laughing until the second set started. Funny ? Oh Yes, Outrageous – definitely.
The second half of the set was, as promised, devoted to Permission to Land in its entirety and it was just fabulous. No other words are really needed, the songs were note for note bang on and the theatrics and presence that The Darkness possessed then was still very much evident now and out in full tonight. The crowd loved it, they danced, they sang along and overall they had a rip-roaring time. Even when the final encore was “Don’t Let The Bells End”, The Darkness’ contribution to the festive canon, the crowd lapped it up and sang along as if this was one of THE classics.
Thinking about it, I suppose it is a classic and what’s more so are The Darkness and although Justin Hawkins these days looks very much like a cross between Alan Partridge and Freddy Mercury (is that a Movember moustache or is it a permanent fixture) they remain one of the bands out there truly equipped to provide you with a great Rock n Roll show on a Friday night. Long may it continue guys, even if it is just playing Permission To Land on rotation, we look forward to the next ten years.
2nd December 2013
Set List (The Darkness) –
1. Makin’ Out
2. She Just a Girl, Eddie
3. Is It Just Me?
4. The Horn
5. Every Inch of You
6. Curse of the Tolland Man
7. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
8. One Way Ticket
Permission to Land
9. Black Shuck
10. Get Your Hands Off My Woman
11. Growing on Me
12. I Believe in a Thing Called Love
13. Love Is Only a Feeling
14. Givin’ Up
15. Stuck in a Rut
16. Friday Night
17. Love on the Rocks with No Ice
18. Holding My Own
19. Christmas Time (Don’t Let
the Bells End)