LIVE: The Darkness – The Dome, Brighton 11/12/2017
Blackfoot Gypsies took to the stage with a confident amble, looking every inch the early 70s rock n’ roll throwback. For the uninitiated, guitarist/singer/frontman Matthew Paige’s flower power knitted cardy and Nashville drawl set the tone for what followed, a foot-stomping set of good-time bluesy Americana that would certainly have pricked the ears of fans of the Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, Georgia Satellites and Britain’s own rising rhythm and blues soulsters, Maker. They convinced the crowd, with a rarely heard authenticity helped in no uncertain terms by Ollie Dogg’s wonderful harmonica playing throughout. His skilful ease and soulful touches added an authority to the rootsier tunes like Back to New Orleans, while helping to power along the uptempo barnstormers I Had a Vision and Everybody’s Watching, which closed their set to well deserved applause.
The Darkness were greeted with a cheer like old friends by this now well warmed up crowd. Justin Hawkins was resplendent in a chestless green sparkling jumpsuit, complete with matching cape and cheeky grin. His entrance ensured that before even playing a note of opening track, Open Fire, everyone was smiling. Love is Only a Feeling followed up with the crowd keen to sing along, their falsettos in full voice, and Southern Trains completed the first salvo, many here in the audience appreciating the lyrical content knowing the service all too well. After a thank you from Hawkins to the photographers as they left the pit (tongue in cheek satisfaction that most of the photos were of him!), Black Shuck rocked the room. A silver serving dish was then brought onstage for bass player Frankie Poullain, who looked Huggy Bear cool in a red pimp suit. Behold… the cowbell and drumstick… and One Way Ticket continued with the crowd bouncing along.
Taking time to say this current tour had been the longest the band had ever done, and apologising if his voice sounded a little tired at times (it didn’t), Hawkins expressed his appreciation for the sea of “little faces” in the audience, faces of “disappointment when I don’t hit the notes, and of wonder when I do(!)”. Givin’ Up then continued the party feel. Recent single All The Pretty Girls raised the tempo up a notch once again, and a driving Barbarian kept the crowd jumping before the relative calm of Friday Night and a huge congregational sing along. It was a special moment that Makin’ Out and Every Inch of You couldn’t really match but a future classic in the shape of Solid Gold brought the crowd to busting point again. A warning to “hold on to your cardigan” heralded a raucous Stuck In a Rut for the first of three back to back songs from Permission To Land. Dan Hawkins stepped up for guitar hero worship in Get Your Hands Off My Woman, and Growing On Me brought rapturous appeals for more.
After a costume change by Justin Hawkins into a gold catsuit, Japanese Prisoner of Love, the fourth track played from their excellent new album Pinewood Smile, kicked off the encores. There was more audience singing and much merriment in the seasonal Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End), and I Believe in a Thing Called Love quite simply brought the house down. With Rufus Taylor keeping everything rock solid at the back and the band now with a two year long stable lineup, The Darkness sounded back to their very best. What a show!
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