Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Darkness @ Alexandra Palace, London

8 February 2006

Imagine you’re the tour manager of The Darkness. On your previous UKextravaganza the lead singer rode triumphantly over the assembledthrong ona stuffed white tiger. Now it’s potentially even bigger – AlexandraPalace,that giant greenhouse on the top of north London.

So how do you raisethebar? By enlisting a couple of supporting props, in the form of asofa-sizedpair of breasts, planting said singer smack in the middle of thecleavage.All artistic of course, as the song in question is called Knockers, andthepair even have flashing nipples – loaned from a British seasideresort, nodoubt. Let’s just be thankful there isn’t a song called… well, nevermind, you get the picture!

An uplifting start then – ahem – and an indicator of the humourand lackof subtlety to follow, not to mention the enormous quantities of rawk -just the ticket for a Darkness gig. A huge church organ, flanked by twoenormous forks, sits at the back of the stage and takes the lead for atriumphant encore of English Country Garden.

And yet something seems tobeafflicting the lead singer – his paunch. Justin’s clearly had abeer or twosince the last tour – “Mine’s a Guinness!” he shouts during the balladsection – and yet he’s more than happy to flaunt the fruits of hisoverindulgence, undulating in time to the music to comic effect.

Lowestoft’s true rock school graduates open to a triumvirate fromthenew album – the aforementioned Knockers, a poptastic One Way Ticketand theBachmann-Turner Overdrive update Is It Just Me, a melodic,riff-driven threesome. New bassist Richey Edwards is given thehonour of a solo and he looks totally comfortable, yet Justin’soverenthusiastic introduction betrays a need to paint him as much morethanprevious slugger Frankie Poullain.

And so to a central acoustic set, Justin bringing a large uprightpianointo the fray, with brother Dan and Edward on guitars for an emotiveversion of Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. Or, as the lead singernotes, “Time for a pint!” Second album closer Blind Man doesn’t fare sowell, the Queen style chorus lost without its backing vocals andnotreally benefiting from a sudden excursion into the 2001 theme, Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Nor isDinner Lady Arms completely successful, sounding curiously routine.Happilythe damage is done elsewhere, with Growing On Me and I Believe In AThingCalled Love rousing the crowd ahead of the hurricane that becomes GetYourHands Off My Woman.

Bravely, the band opt to close with Bald – their darkest song butgivena brilliant flash of light by the pyrotechnics at the end. The bandseemblissfully unaware of the venue’s unfortunate history with fire, yet astheflames lick towards the ceiling the masses are wholly satisfied. Thesubject matter for all, though, remains Justin’s knockers. And the bandhave had a few in their moments of fame so far, but who can begrudgethemsuccess when their shows are this entertaining?

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