Gig Review: The Darkness – Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow (9th December 2021)

Honestly, it’s a little weird to have The Darkness in a Glasgow venue which isn’t the O2 Academy given that’s where they’ve played the past few tours. But when you combine one of the 00s greatest rock exports with one of the world’s greatest venues, you’re not going to complain too much, especially when they’re armed with another three quarters of a dozen of excellent ditties, including one dedicated to tonight’s stop on the tour.

Indeed, it would be rude of The Darkness to open their set with anything but “Welcome to Glesga” (I’m not spelling it the Edinburgh way, sorry not sorry). Unfortunately, once more, work got in the way of seeing Massive Wagons warm up the crowd but given the headliners, they’re a perfect fit and having seen them a number of times over the years, I’m sure they rose to the challenge with ease. Whilst heading back to the car, I overheard a couple of people say they were a bit quiet, an adjective you could never label the Wagons with. They then said they’d have preferred if the gig was at the Academy as they felt it’s a better venue. So they were talking shite.

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Regardless, The Darkness have the Glaswegian crowd in the palm of their hands before their love letter to the town is finished. And we settle in for the quartet doing what they do best. It’s much like previous tours where the new album gets a decent outing, there’s representation from every preceding album with the exception of Hot Cakes mainly because it was a bit shit and the standard, and welcome, healthy dose of Permission to Land.

As a reliably great live act, it’s clear a pandemic hasn’t been a hurdle for them as they perform like they’ve never been away, especially being a decent chunk into the tour and they’re clearly match fit. Natty suits, Thin Lizzy t-shirts and impossibly tight one-pieces are as much the hallmarks of a Darkness show as duelling chunky guitars, drawn out notes synchronised to jumps from the drum riser and delightfully high-pitched vocals.

Whilst staples like “Friday Night”, “Givin’ Up” and “Black Shuck” have the crowd at their most receptive, newer numbers like “It’s Love, Jim”, “Sticky Situations” and “Eastbound” have portions of the crowd singing word perfect. But this is The Darkness. They’re born entertainers and know how to write a ridiculously catchy song and have made a career out of it for almost two decades (barring a few years in the mid-late 00s).

Continuing to be as tight as they’ve ever been, they show how they’re legitimately great musicians and performers, managing to squeeze in plenty of laughs between songs and a good dig at Gary Barlow (frankly, he deserves it). As they close out the main part of their set with that song, the encore brings them back for a few Christmas covers like the insipid “Do They Know it’s Christmas?”, Cliff Richard’s “Mistletoe and Wine” and Wham’s “Last Christmas”. Now, if you’re playing the great game of Whamageddon, you’re safe: covers don’t count. And it wouldn’t be a Darkness show if they didn’t play their Christmas song, especially at this time of year, warming the heart of even the biggest Scrooge.

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The Darkness continue to keep their pace, delivering another reliably thrilling night of hard rock, acting as one fluid unit, they put bands their age and older to shame. Never coming close to pastiche but with great reverence for the genre and their forefathers and inspirations, they mark the night but entertaining all and serving as a reminder of what a ridiculously great live act they are.

Header image by Simon Emmett

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