LIVE: The Darkness – Brighton Dome 16/11/2011
Arrival. 35 years of Seventies Swedish folk euro-pop slices like a scepter through the silence of Brighton Dome’s Concert Hall. For the converted, the ensuing heartgasm is palpable, for debutantes, it soon will be. Over the next 90 minutes, the men from uncool launch a systematic destruction on the audience’s personal decorum. Rock and roll is saved once again. At least for tonight, but it wasn’t always this way…
Okay. Confession time. Before I add another word, I’ve something to admit. I’m a Darkness-a-holic, a Darkling.
I was there the night The Darkness literally brought the house (well, ceiling) down at the Peterborough Met Lounge. I was there six months later when they turned the Fat Dancer from Take That’s Knebworth ego-trip into a warm-down act. I was there for the The Carling Homecoming. Both Nights. The Boob Chariot. CD-UK. The Kerrang Awards, and the drama of throat-nodule-gate in Liverpool.
The Darkness ARE the most important band in my life. The Darkness saved my life.
So why this admission? Truth. From this point on, it’s choose-your-own-adventure time. You can stop reading, you can dismiss the rest of this piece as sycophantic whimsy, or you can re-call the band closest to your heart. Maybe it’s a band you’re in. Do it now. Think of the highs, the lows, the moments you’ve shared, and the shit you’ve been through in their name. Now share the nervous energy, the speedball of anticipation, trepidation and consummation felt since the re-union of that band’s classic line-up.
So far the on the road to restoration, we’ve had Norwich, the hometown re-emergence, with its nerves and nostalgia; Download 2011, all downpours and determination; and just over a month ago, a surprise show at the 100 Club proved that whilst old the magic was still there, so were mishaps.
Tonight it’s game on. Tonight it really matters. Nostalgia gets old. For The Darkness tonight to be worth a dime, the band need to hit the high marks with the decadence and consistency that slayed all before them in the pre-Guitar Hero, pre-School of Rock naughties.
Doubters have long dismissed The Darkness as one hit wonders, or at least one album wonders, yet building a career on one great album is no stick to beat a band down. In 2003’s Permission to Land, the band’s quadruple-platinum selling debut, The Darkness have their own greatest hits, a record of all killer no filler every inch the equal of Def Leppard’s Hysteria, G’n’R’s Appetite, or Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic. Every track from Permission to Land finds its way in to tonight’s holding pattern, including for the first time ever the album’s touchy-feely closer, Holding My Own.
For those from first time around, it’s just one in a night of treats. Back also comes Best of Me, with it’s boogie-woogie bassline and the Hawkins Brothers mid-song high-five (Chyeah… I did fanboy squeals). A surprise return too for Street Spirit, the delirious deconstruction of Radiohead into rock opera, and there’s even time to trump it with a more faithful take on Queen’s Tie Your Mother Down. Cowbells, Costume changes and Catsuits, it is all here. It’s as if all our Christmas times have come at once… then the confetti cannons fire and we’re gifted the joy and surprise of the band’s own festive cheer in Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End).
And yet this is all just the theatre – holding it together tonight, the band are tighter than Steel Panther’s spandex. It causes no lesser mortal than Metal Hammer’s Dom Lawson to tweet his musings on the ferocity of Justin’s guitar work. He follows post-gig with an almost apologetic salute to Justin’s brother Dan, who in truth is on fire tonight switching roles between musical Makalele and Gibson-wielding leader of the Marshall stack attack. No moment is left loose, no quarter is given. It’s a set-list both balanced and beautiful.
Three new tracks from the summer shows are already finding their spaces, and prompting audience hand-claps in all the right places. And there’s variety too – the down n’ dirty DC swagger of Cannonball, the re-enforced riffery of Concrete with Justin wailing like a banshee, and, in Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, a nod to the old, old faithful with a sing-along stomp from the band’s pre-fame days on the Camden club circuit.
Debuting on this tour is a prime contender for the band’s comeback single, an as-yet-unnamed radio-friendly strum-fest, that’s both pure Hawkins and pure timeless British guitar pop.
For the encore, they’ve somehow managed to hold back the three biggest guns. The instrumental b-side Bareback, the almost unnecessary I Believe in a Thing Called Love, and the undefeated Love on the Rocks, complete with traditional crowd walkabout.
It’s with the relaxed grace of a job well done that Justin casually announces 2012 will herald another tour and a new album. 37 years ago, stood on the same stage, ABBA announced their global intentions to the world at Eurovision 1974, and based on tonight’s show, The Darkness are ready for anything but their Waterloo.