While fans of pop music look forward to Michael Bublé being wheeled out of the cave he has been hiding in all year to spread a little bit of festival cheer, rock fans have what seems to be an annual rock n’ rock pantomime provided by The Darkness to get them in the Christmas spirit.
This year’s festivities were kicked off by Northern Ireland’s Rews. With high energy throughout the entire set and an infectious alt-rock/pop sound, Shauna Tohil on lead vocals and guitar along with the rest of the band put on an impressive show to the onlooking accidence. Their set featured songs such as “Miss You in The Dark” from their 2017 debut album Pyro and their most recent track “Birdsong”. While it was clear that this was the first time many of the crowd had heard of the band, it seems they will have definitely earned themselves a few new fans from this evening’s performance. With the band now working on a second album, hopefully it won’t be too long until they back of the road showcasing their new material.
When bands announce that they are playing an album in full on an upcoming tour, is it usually to celebrate an important anniversary of an album that helped forge the band’s reputation. For this reason, I did think it was slightly strange that The Darkness had chosen to perform their 2019 album Easter Is Cancelled in full at the start of their set on this run of tour dates. However, looking back on this decision after the gig this is somewhat of an inspired move, as for certain members of the audience who many have only been here to witness the band’s bigger hits, they had to appreciate the band’s newer material before hearing the classics.
While admittedly I hadn’t heard much of the said album, the first part of the set was thoroughly enjoyable with some laughs along the way, especially when lead vocalist Justin Hawkins asked the crowd to bounce during “Heavy Metal Lover” in his own unique way. This was by asking a certain section of the crowd to “conduct bouncing research” of the floor in the venue and then politely asked the rest of the venue to join in with the bouncing “when arm waving doesn’t seem like a viable option”.
With a few “Yorkshire” chants from the crowd to encourage him and Hawkins suggesting he might jump from the balcony onto the crowd below as he had done a number of years ago at a gig in Holmfirth, the first set was over in a flash.
After a quick costume change with the band changing out of their matching white outfits, they returned for the greatest hits section of the evening, kicking off with “One Way Ticket”. Both the audience and band seemed to really enjoy “Growing On Me” and “Love Is Only a Feeling” from their 2003 debut album Permission to Land, so much so that drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor managed to break his snare drum during the latter song.
Due to another technical issue, this time with Frankie Poullain’s bass guitar, there was a brief pause prior to “Get Your Hands Off My Woman”. Hawkins tried to distract the audience by removing the top half of his leotard and putting on a t-shirt that he had bought at the York Christmas market earlier in the day. The t-shirt featured the phrase “Ey-up”, which inevitably reignited the “Yorkshire” chants.
With Hawkins saying “We’ll do our most famous song now and I want everyone to jump up and down” it was obviously time for the band’s breakthrough track “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”. With almost every phone in the venue now raised recording the song, the crowd obeyed Hawkins request when the chorus kicked in.
When they returned to the stage wearing Christmas hats it was clearly time for “Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)”, but before they began Hawkins asked the crowd to put their phones away, stating that “you’ll enjoy it more” and asked everyone to hold hands with the person next them and sway along.
Despite a few technically difficulties along the way, The Darkness showed the city of York that they are more than a band that had that one hit years ago. Some might say. The Darkness are for life, not just for Christmas.
Pics by Jack Barker Photography