This past Monday British show rockers The Darkness put on the most entertaining live show of 2013 so far.
Glam rockers The Darkness formed back in 2000 in England, and took North America by storm with their debut album Permission to Land in 2003. Justin Hawkins (lead vocals, guitar), his brother Dan Hawkins (guitar, backing vocals), Frankie Poullain (bass, backing vocals) and Ed Graham (drums) dazzled the world with their lively performances until the departures of Poullain and Hawkins put an end to the group. Their reunion in 2011 made rock and roll history, and with a new album (Hotcakes, 2012) under their vintage belts, the Darkness was back again much to the delight of fans and music lovers worldwide.
Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre was packed to the rafters, the crowd chanting for the band of the hour. As the anticipation built to a near breaking point, the Darkness strode onto the stage, shadows mysteriously moving around as the opening strains of “Every Inch of you” were heard. From the moment the house lights went on, fans were rabid, the venue literally shaking with their excitement as they sang along to “Growing on Me” and “One way ticket”. It’s no wonder fans were so ecstatic; the Darkness’ signature theatricality and showmanship was alive and well even a decade later, and how could it not be? Frontman Justin Hawkins is one of the best in the business. If Chris Cornell and Freddie Mercury had been able to defy science and produce blonde and British progeny, Hawkins’ incredible existence could be explained. He has Cornell’s signature wail and 90s era hair and abs and Mercury’s operatic vocals and unstoppable stage presence. Not only is he an amazing musician and vocalist, he’s also full of surprises. Whether he’s climbing the walls of the Phoenix, straddling statues suspended from the ceiling or stage diving from the balcony, you never know what he’s going to do next. Hawkins’ wild, tattoo and muscles revealing fashion choices, his adorably accented crowd banter and his acrobatic and athletic antics all make him irresistible – you can’t help but love him, all the while questioning his sanity.
Showmanship wasn’t the only thing the Darkness brought to Toronto. Musical talent abounds in this band. The Hawkins brothers were the stars of the night, thrilling fans with mind bending solos and sibling harmonies. Poullain and Graham made their presence known by their impeccable and danceworthy bass and drum lines. While songs from Hotcakes and One Way Ticket to Hell…And Back peppered the set, it was those familiar songs from Permission to Land that the crowd was dying to hear. The albums’ recorded version pales in comparison to the musical juggernaut it becomes when brought to life on stage. “Get your hands off of my woman”, “Love is only a feeling”, “Friday night”; Hawkins’ impossibly and astronomically high vocals were nearly eclipsed by the roar of the crowd singing every word with him. The iconic single “I believe in a thing called love” closed the set, complete with that mind boggling solo (courtesy of Dan Hawkins). Fans only had to wait a few moments for the Darkness to return for their encore, and it was well worth sticking around if only for the fifteen minute show closer “Love on the rocks with no ice”. Featuring the musical complexity and maturity of Rush, but with the entertainment value that could only come from the Darkness could provide, complete with Justin Hawkins crowdsurfing while still busting out the song’s incredible guitar solo.
The Darkness live is the musical equivalent of blacking out after a great party – everything’s fuzzy and you have no idea what actually happened. But one thing’s for certain – it was one hell of night, and even if you can’t remember, you know you’ll never forget it.
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