A Darkness concert can be described in one word: FUN. I witnessed the Hawkins brothers and company at the Gothic Theatre in Denver this past Saturday. It was sold out with 1,200 fans of all ages packed into every square inch of the venue. I was extremely thankful I had press passes; after I left the photo pit I found a nice spot right of stage to enjoy the show vs. fighting for a view and rubbing against random humans for 90 minutes.
I’m hot and cold on The Darkness, pretty much like the rest of the planet. And they realize that too. Lead singer Justin Hawkins, adorned in a leopard leotard, brought this to everyone’s attention by charting out a graph of their career onstage. He jokingly described it as starting in the stratosphere upon the release of Permission To Land and then plummeting straight downward and going back up – just slightly from the bottom, over the last few years and flatlining up until that night. He thanked everyone and said we had all moved it up another tick. And he also addressed his descent into a mound of cocaine for many years. He and the rest of the band were in excellent spirits with Hawkins swimming/crowd surfing and good natured banter throughout the night.
I forgot how refreshing it was to hear and see the video for “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” back in 2003 in an era of Nu-Metal domination. Spaceships, ridiculousness, falsetto vocals and a ripping guitar solo in front of a tower of Marshall amps so tall it put KISS to shame. The Darkness truly embraced the excess and over the top attitude of arena rock. But was it schtick? Were they a joke band? Before a verdict could be made they vanished for nearly a decade until reuniting in 2011. Then came three new albums, the best being Last of Their Kind in 2015.
Much like Billy Corgan or Myles Kennedy’s vocals for me, Hawkins‘ singing style either fits perfectly or can ruin a song. A prime example is “Barbarian.” With that said, I like the majority of Permission to Land and there are gems on each of their albums. And the vocals are not studio wizardry, Justin Hawkins hit all the high notes live.
But back to the concert. The Darkness blazed through an 18 track setlist starting with “Open Fire” (love that song) with 9 tracks coming from their debut. You heard that right. If they have a 20th Anniversary “Play Our Hit Album in Full” tour I’ve pretty much already seen it. And you can’t teach stage presence. Justin Hawkins, guitarist Dan Hawkins, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor are an extremely tight unit keeping the audience captivated throughout. There weren’t any visible “new song bathroom breaks.” Surprisingly, most of the time cell phones popped up for videos it was for newer tracks like “Solid Gold.” And the audience skewed below 30 so they have certainly grabbed new fans over the last few albums.
If they come to your town, see them. Escape for a few hours of energetic fun. You’ll thank me.
“Open Fire” official video included at the bottom.
Note: A band called Diarrhea Planet opened. Per Spotify they have a song called “Ghost with a Boner.” I did not see them. I’m sure they were fantastic.
Love Is Only a Feeling
One Way Ticket
All the Pretty Girls
Buccaneers of Hispaniola
Every Inch of You
Stuck in a Rut
Get Your Hands Off My Woman
Growing on Me
Japanese Prisoner of Love
I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Love on the Rocks With No Ice