“Give me a D!” a voice roars and the crowd complies. “Give me an ‘arkness!” the voice requests again and dutifully, they respond. It’s a couple of songs into The Darkness’ Live at Hammersmith album from their London date on last year’s UK tour and already, the album perfectly captures the atmosphere and shenanigans of their performances.
Like the 70s hard rock bands they draw the majority of their influence from, The Darkness have lovingly crafted a live album that makes you feel like you’re there. With the crowd applause and cheers audible and the band themselves well mixed, it’s a band conducting a lesson on how to craft a live album, mirroring their live performances. As “One Way Ticket” is introduced, you can just imagine Frankie Poullain poised with his cowbell and drumstick as the crowd acquiesce to building the tension for that moment.
Elsewhere, it’s pretty much the standard set from when I saw them on the Glasgow date of the same tour. Permission to Land gets its usual love with the vast majority of the album making up roughly half of the set whilst the recent Pinewood Smile is naturally given fair airing. “Buccaneers of Hispaniola” and “Southern Trains” sound as gnarly as ever with their tongue-in-cheek lyrics, working well with gems like “Black Shuck” and “Get Your Hands Off My Woman”. Whilst Last of Our Kind gets little love and Hot Cakes even less, you do miss songs like “With a Woman” and “She’s Just a Girl, Eddie” from the latter album.
It’s delightfully glam, slick and polished. Justin Hawkins’ banter between songs prove he’s not one of these frontmen saying the same lines every night. Although a revisit of the impromptu “Frankie’s Mum” wouldn’t have gone amiss (if you were at Glasgow last year, you know what I’m talking about).
Elsewhere, during what was the encore, one of the three acceptable Christmas songs (the other two were by Queen for those keeping score at home) is naturally included. Partly because it was during the first era of The Darkness at the height of their powers, partly because the tour was right before Christmas. And partly because it’s just a bloody good song. It may be June but if it doesn’t get you singing, you’re dead inside.
Whilst it may be over-indulgent and Justin Hawkins may declare “There is to be no more pissing about” but if you don’t marry pissing about with good songs, showmanship and a tight live band, is it really a Darkness show?
Is Live at Hammersmith the best live album ever? Probably not as you’ve got Live and Dangerous and many others in that all-so exclusive club. But it’s a shining example of how to continue to make live albums in the same ethos as those who came before. It brilliantly captures everything you want from a live performance, and the spirit of watching The Darkness do what only they can do.
Header image by Watchmaker Studios