Live Review: The Darkness

16/11 at the brighton dome

I'll be honest. I walked into the Dome in Brighton not fussed if The Darkness were going to be any good. I went there wanting to hear 'the hit', I enjoyed their debut album but hadn't listened to it for quite some time now. However, after an invite from a friend with a spare ticket I found myself at the Dome proclaiming "They'd better play that christmas tune too!"

Support from Foxy Shazam was impressive. Fast paced aggressive pop rock from the depths of Cincinati, USA, made an entertaining start to the evening. Lead vocalist Eric Nally ensured the party got started with the chorus "That's the biggest black ass I've ever seen...and I like it, I like it!" ...the tone of the evening was set then and there!

Now I have to be honest, In my dark distant past I have met Justin Hawkins whilst he what I assume was a mid life crisis attempting entry to Eurovision. My head can be hung in joint shame as I was there working with ex Atomic Kitten, Liz McLarnon. However neither of our efforts proved successful as Scooch ran away with it. Anyway, we had the privilege of sitting next to the Hawkins family and they were entertaining and warming, so have always wanted to will him on.

Back to 2011 The Darkness arrived on stage with a bang, blasting out Black Schuck, the opener on Permission to Land. The band, now looking more comfortable with original bass player Frankie Poullain back in the fold tore through Love Is Only a Feeling and Get your hands of my Woman that reminded me how good the band were in their heyday. And actually the new songs offer a very promising insight into a band who if they play it carefully could earn great respect with the new material they played. It was good, in fact very good...and I didn't expect that.

What struck me the most was just how good a guitarist Justin was. He really is a great rock guitarist, not in the Eddie Van Halen or Steve Vai sense of a player, but he can make his guitar sing far greater than I'd ever given him credit for. I can't name many people who genuinely look like they love performing, he's too cheeky to be all out rock in a modern world, yet he's so gentle with the audience that it looks like he's overstudied the Freddie Mercury guide to audience interaction. However he comes across honest and passionate.

Near the end of the set, Justin hammered his Les Paul and out came the chords to Radiohead's Street Spirit (Fade Out). Now this is a really dangerous tune. Do it badly and it is going to ruin the gig for all, but actually apart from the intense recording of the original song, it was the best version I have ever heard. The audience lapped it up and then spat out an enormous cheer. The Darkness had won the hearts of even the most cynical audience members.

"It's nearly Christmas" exclaimed Justin, and with that the snow fell and we all sang along to one of the best of modern Christmas songs Christmas Time (Don't let the bells end). Now it's easy to leave your biggest hit 'til last, but the boys came back after a short break with a Queen cover, and then....then the time arrived. Now I dare anyone to say they can't find merit in the song I Believe in a Thing Called Love. It's an awesome song, it twists and turns and had the best video for years during a time that nobody cared about videos. The best bit is that the song works so well live. It's a hit that can be played by real people with real instruments....and the band play their anthem like it's their last ever gig. They raised the roof and the audience loved it, but why wouldn't they...it's just an amazing song and the band played it like for all it was worth.

So, I went expecting very little. I left with a new found respect for a band who are far better than I had ever imagined. I loved it. If you go with an open mind, you'd love it too. There is huge promise with the new tunes and let's hope the darkness can grow organically this time. The band are older, hopefully wiser, but ultimately better!