Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Darkness @ Hammersmith Apollo, London

22 October 2003

The Darkness are utterly inescapable at the moment. Described in adoring terms as the greatest rock’n’roll band of the last twenty years by Kerrang and almost single handedly ripping up Virgin Radio’s policy of no repeat plays, their debut album, Permission to Land, stormed to Number 1 in the charts and has hung around the top since.

The band’s live reputation has been spreading far and wide from Glastonbury early in the summer to a notoriously hard to please yet delightedly converted New York crowd in September. So it was with tangible excitement that 5 000 fans descended on the Hammersmith Apollo to witness the new heroes of the British music scene.

Toronto’s Three Inches of Blood provided the main support and warmed the crowd up with their particular brand of non too subtle riff laden rock. At some points it was as if they were attempting to emulate AC/DC who had played only two nights before. To amused appreciation they disappeared before a huge curtain fell in front of the stage hiding the activities of the roadies behind it.

This served to whip up the crowd’s fervour and it was not long before the unmistakeable silhouette of Justin Hawkins appeared clapping manically. Every one in the venue quickly followed suit before the curtain dropped to reveal the band in their full glory, Dan Hawkins with trademark Thin Lizzy t-shirt, Frankie Poullain with trimmed handle bar moustache and Ed Graham pummelling the drums. It is undeniably the frontman though who makes The Darkness such an exciting live act.

As they launch into their first track, Black Shuck, Hawkins struts around the stage like a peacock dressed in tight white trousers and a fluffy waistcoat, the first of three hilarious costumes. As the song comes to a close you realise what makes The Darkness so much fun. Whilst the majority of rock bands taking themselves rather seriously encouraging their angst ridden fans to stick their devil horns in the air, Hawkins shouts that he wants to see every thumb in Hammersmith in the air and he is duly rewarded with interest. As you look around the place everyone, young and old is grinning from ear to ear, after just one song.

Favourites Growing on Me and Love is Only a Feeling are served up with Justin playing the guitar behind his head, jumping ludicrously in the air. The theatre that he creates is simply brilliant, kissing the neck of his Gibson, curling his lip and running from one side of the stage to another. The banter is great as well. A rambling recount of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s victory in California and the groping allegations that surrounded it lead up to a rip roaring Get Your Hands Off My Woman with full audience participation.

Dan and Justin alternate solos in the shamelessly cheerful I Believe In A Thing Called Love as Poullain, deadpan but loving it, recreates the mass overhead clapping of Queen‘s Radio Ga Ga. There is even a glorious rendition of Radiohead‘s Street Spirit.

Leaving the stage to thunderous applause they quickly return, their final tune being the stupidly titled Love on the Rocks with No Ice. Yet the show has not finished. Justin then proceeds to get on the shoulders of one of the security guards and parades through the packed Apollo crowd while playing flawless electric guitar.

It has been written that The Darkness, with their guitar solos, spandex and falsetto vocals are deeply uncool but surely this gig shows what live rock music is all about. Seriously talented musicians with great songs having a scream and entertaining a crowd that left buzzing with excitement. Very cool and utterly brilliant!

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The Darkness @ Hammersmith Apollo, London