Through a series of events, Saturday was only my second time seeing The Darkness even though they’ve been back for several years and I rather like them. Although if you want to be really pedantic, this was my first time seeing them perform a full/proper show. The first time I saw them, they were playing Permission to Land in full. Yes, that really is as awesome as it sounds.
Saturday night with an awesome rock band, of course Glasgow was up for this. After late entry to the O2 Academy (do they ever open the doors on time?), gracing their hometown once more was The River 68’s. I’ve experienced this twosome a few times and it’s a welcome change from the normal drums and guitar two-pieces that have surged to the fore lately (normally opening and naff into the bargain). This time, it’s a singer and a guitarist.
It’s an odd choice for a rootsy rock outfit to be opening for a hard rock act with as much glam as possible without make-up. Any time I’ve seen them, they’ve received a great response from the crowd but it’s been to their hometown which they happily play up to. Personally, their music does nothing for me and doesn’t hold my attention. However, there’s far worse out there to the point I’ve questioned why the band exists, I’m not quite there with this pair.
Taking the stage and playing for an hour and a half, dishing out nineteen songs, The Darkness were a band firing on all cylinders. Energised with new material, they’d clearly crafted a setlist to please the fans and into the bargain, themselves. Clearly enjoying themselves and feeding off the energy the audience were firing back at them, they were out to have a good night as much as the people who paid to come and see them.
Kicking things off with “Barbarian” from the latest album, Last of Our Kind, it was straight into familiar territory with “Growing on Me” and “Black Shuck”. And that was pretty much it for the rest of the night, playing the vast majority of Permission to Land, save for a couple of songs. It shows how popular and how strong the material from that debut album is that they can get away with playing almost every song from it.
Even though the “Blast of Our Kind” tour is in support of the new album, there was only a couple of songs plucked from it, three if you include their new Christmas song “I am Santa” which frankly isn’t a patch on their classic and now staple of anyone’s Christmas soundtrack, “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)”.
The rest of the set was filled out with two apiece from One Way Ticket to Hell and Back and Hot Cakes. Fair enough, Hot Cakes wasn’t the comeback album it should have been but to miss out on “With a Woman” and “She’s Just a Girl, Eddie” was a bit of a let-down since they were the two best songs on the album. Each of those albums did have some gems and the best thing about that night is also the worst. Yes, Permission to Land is a great album, especially when you stack it up against the two following albums but it means those rare gems are overlooked because so many people go mental the minute a song from the debut begins.
Last of Our Kind had some great tracks on it like “Open Fire” and its title track, both of which were omitted. We were also treated to a brand new song, set to feature on next year’s album, entitled “Rack of Glam”; all but confirming Rufus Tiger Taylor is sticking with the band. And given he’s a phenomenal drummer, taking after his dad, Roger, it’s easy to see why. Since he was playing the parts of men (and women) that came before him, this was his moment. From beginning to end, it was hard to peel your eyes away from him, barely pushing himself yet clearly having the time of his life like the three men in front of him; it’ll be interesting to see how he contributes new material.
Meanwhile, brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins show they’re fantastic guitarists and whilst it may not be obvious on recordings, you just need to watch them. Swerving around each other with ease, their crunching, chunky riffs are enough to get anyone moving whether it’s headbanging, jumping or full-out moshpits. And let’s not forget Frankie Poullain, his polished bass grooves bringing extra weight to the music, rumbling alongside the electric guitars and making you want to nod your head in time.
With the final song of “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” after Justin Hawkins decided to add some blues licks into the mix, it was encore time with the afore-mentioned “Christmas Time…” and “Love on the Rocks”. Despite the niggle of wanting some newer material in the set and sometimes Justin Hawkin’s voice was barely in the mix at times, you can’t help but leave with a grin on your face. After the first song, I was reminded how fun The Darkness are as a live band to the point you wish every Saturday night could be like that.