Following Justin Hawkins’ departure in 2006, fans all but completely shelved their love for the band who’d had such a rapid rise to prominence, knowing that without him the show simply couldn’t go on. As it turned out, the issue wasn’t so much the apparent substance abuse as it was him just needing a break from the lather-rinse-repeat monotony of recording and touring. One haircut and two line-up changes later and Hawkins has once again taken his position at the helm of the beastly leviathan known as The Darkness, from Lowestoft, England, mind.
As sour a thought as it may be, long-term sobriety doesn’t often favour the return of flamboyant and outrageous entertainers like Hawkins, but whatever muddy waters they’ve had to navigate with him as a band haven’t one bit diminished their collective ability to captivate and blow the minds of everyone they play to. Effortlessly dialling the energy of the room up to “berzerker” in just three songs was child’s play for these glam princes, with Barbarian and Black Shuck turning the nosebleed section rabid, rather early.
Nowhere else will you see big, burly men screaming out to be touched or even just looked at by the singer of any band, but such is Hawkins’ mischievously enthralling charm. Wedded to his knack for buttering up a crowd, however, is a keen sense of propriety, as he reminded one zealous audience member, expecting the band to play like monkeys at his beck and call: “This is not a request show, so I’ll kindly ask you to shut the fuck up!” There couldn’t have been a more apposite lead-in to Roaring Waters had they tried to find one.
As far as the usual call-and-response antics of most gigs go, this crowd was in impressive unison, heartily wailing back at every invitation to scream “motherfuuuuc-KER!” as the band tore the roof off the spaceship of a venue with Get Your Hands Off My Woman. At this point, it was hard to imagine the fervour intensifying any more than it had, but for just a moment, your reviewer forgot about the unrelenting, balls-to-the-wall fury of 2003’s Permission To Land, as Stuck In A Rut and gloriously anthemic I Believe In A Thing Called Love won over even the obelisk of a security guard to the side of the stage.
Upon their initial exit, the band had made an army of the crowd, and bellowing chants and foot stomping brought the lads, who had saved their best for last, back out to the stage. Open Fire taken from this year’s Last Of Our Kind makes so much more sense played live to a frantic crowd than it does on record, while their blistering cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit proved that they could rock just as hard, if not harder, than their contemporaries - especially AC/DC (bring it, haters).
Closer Love On The Rocks With No Ice had Hawkins mount the shoulders of one his aforementioned manly fans and make his way through the crowd like an Arabian king paraded amongst his peasants. The crowd’s adoration of the band had peaked, and the boys from the eerie English town left the stage, having branded their famous mark of glitz, glam and rock on this similarly quiet corner of the world.