- 15 Oct 17
Pat Carty attains rock nirvana in twenty seconds, and wakes up with his head in a sling
It begins with a drone, like some hokey religious ceremony, or an approaching B52 raid, there’s high pitched screaming and two flashing towers of light, the intro music turns almost Celtic, like a headbanger’s Hogmanay, and then, in an explosion of colour, like a rainbow puking, The Darkness hit the stage.
Justin Hawkins, ahead of this three date Irish tour, goes to his local drapers and asks the man behind the counter to try and imagine that St. Patrick has returned from the beyond, but this time he has decided to bring sexy with him. “I have the very thing”, says our man. Hawkins is fucking resplendent in a one-piece bright green jump suit, cut to the navel, and Cuban heels. If that wasn’t enough - and why, in the name of Jesus, would that not be enough? – he’s also sporting a cape, of the same eye-burning hue. Not all heroes wear capes, of course, but thankfully, some still do. There are other members of the band, although it’s hard to tear the eye away from that car accident of an outfit. Frankie Poullain, French for “Chicken God” I believe, sports a raspberry zoot suit behind his explorer bass, Rufus Tiger Taylor is in a Hawaiian shirt, and Dan Hawkins wears his trusty Thin Lizzy t-shirt beneath a shiny baseball jacket. It’s an awe inspiring visual feast, and they haven’t played a note yet.
‘Open Fire’ is the natural place to start, and after only twenty seconds in, we few, we happy few in a packed Academy have already attained rock nirvana. ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’ bathes us all in a mirror ball glow as our hands sway in time, followed by the righteous anger of ‘Southern Trains’, and then the chilling tale of an evil from olden times, 'Black Shuck’. Hawkins has now gone full Catweazle on acid as the band careen wildly into ‘Buccaneers Of Hispaniola’. The crowd break into the Olé chorus and this skilled band of troubadours pick up the ball and run with it, playing along. Poullain then brandishes a cow bell bigger than your head off which he breaks a drum stick before hammering out the intro to ‘One Way Ticket’, a cautionary drug tale which is followed by another, in ‘Giving Up’.
Hold on, you might say, The Darkness are just a joke of a band, all hair and high pitch. Such an opinion is pure foolishness in the face of the serious chops on display, for both Hawkins brothers are superb guitarists, and the rhythm section is tighter than an alpine bend. Hawkins voice is probably disturbing canine ears in the next county, but in a good way.
‘All The Pretty Girls’, from their life changing new album, Pinewood Smile, is followed by ‘Barbarian’, which, as the title suggests, is the sound of a horde coming over the hill, a song that could break into Trinity College and make off back to the Longboat with the Book of Kells. Hawkins plays piano and guitar at the same time with nonchalant ease during ‘Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry?’ and then goes full Marc Bolan for ‘Friday Night’, we even get a blast of Take That’s ‘Back For Good’ and a tantalising snatch (MATRON!) of The Jovi’s ‘Wanted: Dead Or Alive’ before a glorious ‘Solid Gold’. The main part of the set is brought to a close with ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’ and ‘Growing On Me’, Hawkins carrying off a handstand in front of the drums before swimming across the outstretched arms of the crowd, like a glam rock Michael Phelps.
They encore with ‘Japanese Prisoner of Love’, basically Queen on speed, and then ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’, which continues to honour the blessed name of Freddie with a ‘Radio Ga-Ga’ hands in the air celebration. The outro music, as they finally leave the stage, is Elton John’s ‘Bennie And The Jets’, whose electric boots and mohair suits could not be more appropriate. The crowd, as we file out, turn to complete strangers to make the devil sign and nod their appreciation, and Hot Press woke up with his head in a sling, which should tell you all you need to know. Beyond awesome.