The House of Blues was filled with anticipation on Friday night, February 17, 2012 waiting for headliner to come on and perform. The venue was surprisingly large, with not one, but two bars inside where mixing and pouring drinks for thousands of awaiting fans was the prelude to the night before the dawning of The Darkness.
Patrons drinking, smoking and enjoying the ambiance of low-lighting and the smell of burning incense filled the room. HOB is supposedly a tough venue for fans and media due to the security and staff monitoring the audience, but once those lights dimmed and the masses started to increase in size, following what everyone was doing, became overlooked (hence all the smoking, cigarettes and otherwise).
Crown Jewel Defense was the first opener for The Darkness and they did not disappoint with their performance and crazy antics on stage. CJD was a good band to be featured in the line-up, they have a Glam Rock style and were very entertaining, spitting on the stage, throwing microphones, the typical reverie and yelling one can expect from a group such as this. Next up was Foxy Shazam and from the time the group took the stage, fans responded instantly.
Foxy Shazam is a band that must be experienced live, with its Ska-like quality music, perhaps due to the trumpet horn in the mix, they incorporate Glam Rock into their sound and performing style as well. Drums, guitar, bass, keyboard and trumpet worked well with the lead singers screaming vocals and big personality, he wore all black leather that night, topped with messy black locks sticking out from under the bill of his, what else, black hat. At one point in the show the lead singer jumped on the shoulders of the guitar player, who at the time was playing a jammin’ solo and the singer began to rapidly hump his band-mates head. They screamed, they spat, telling stories and jokes in between songs, receiving encouragement from a laughing crowd.
The trumpet player would throw his horn high into the air, at least 20 feet before he’d catch it at the last second, beginning to play again. The set ended on a high energy filled note as the singer threw his mic down, these guys kicked ass while playing and revved up the crowd to an insane level that could only match the entertainment and chaos that would come next.
If you haven’t heard or seen The Darkness live, then you may not have the same appreciation for their music or headliner strength, these seasoned musicians bring about a presence and force that can only be described as palpable. They captivated the audience from the moment they took the stage, the group looking out over a dim-lit (and probably slightly lit up) people; packed on floors, stairs and above the stage, shoulder to shoulder, the anticipation built until the elaborate stage production began.
These are the times that a reviewer looks forward to, watching a band that plays and truly makes the show theatrical with antics, lighting and sound, it is truly a site and sound of overwhelming magnitude to experience. Part of the excitement felt from both band and fans was that Darkness has not been on tour since 2006 after Justin Dawkin (lead vocalist) left the group. After his return, they started touring again in 2011, with this being their first visit back to the states to perform.
The Group openned with “Black Shuck” and before the start of the third song Justin yelled to the audience, “Gimme a ‘D’!”
The crowd responded, “’D’!”
“Gimme an Arkness!”
“Yeah I think you and I will all get along just fine!” Justin yelled and the next song “Best of Me” began.
It was nice to see that the band was having fun with the audience, it makes for a good dynamic, making shows more intimate and memorable. Justin and the rest of the group were wearing some great outfits as well, Justin dawning an all American red, white and blue flag leather vest with leather pants that had tassels running down the side. He had a top hat with some steam punk goggles on his head and he quickly shed his vest, it gets pretty hot under all those stage lights (surely some of the girls were hot and bothered too, not from the lighting though).
Song number six was “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” which had a great crowd response and all the fans were singing along. They were a few slower songs in the set, one of which featured a composed and elegant acoustic flamenco-esque style guitar solo from Justin alone on stage. Justin introduced his younger brother Dan as the guitar player next and later on made reference to his other band-mates that also brought the noise that night as well. After bringing the crowd down to a mellow level, the band kicked it into high gear again with songs that featured wailing guitar solos and both drummer (Ed Graham) and bass player (Frankie Poullain) were a good counterpoint to the sound of the high-end glass-shattering vocals. There were two guitars featured on most songs, with harmonies and back-up instrumentation in addition to the theatrical melodies. Justin also exchanged his costume with a long black and white striped pant suit with a slit down the front revealing his abdomen, yes there was a lot of skin, screams, sweat and sweet music streaming all night long.
“Friday Night” was a song that had everyone jumping up and down, singing along with the lyrics, it was a Friday night after all (and everyone was pretty well good and tossed at this point)! The band lead into “Street Spirit” a cover of Radiohead’s “Fade Out,” they truly re-made the song into something that was all their own, it was creative and tastefully done. This was a major highlight of the performance, showcasing The Darkness’ talents as well as their influences from prominent groups.
After a few more songs, everyone in the audience started to murmur, asking and wondering when they would play the song that they were all waiting to hear. Finally for the last song of their set, Justin walked out with his cool swagger wearing a mischievous grin, played a long intro into the hit fans knew was finally being played.
Everyone in the venue was screaming the lyrics to “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” for the entirety of the song, in fact the fans were so loud, it was almost hard to hear Justin’s vocals over the crowds roar. He exchanged back and forth with the microphone, having the audience sing lead for part of the song and then he finished it to the end. After a standing ovation and the fans chanting for “One more song!” the band obliged, performing two more songs, “Bareback” and “Love on The Rocks No Ice” as an encore. The lights were brought back up in the venue and like a late night party drawing to a close; band spent, audience trashed and bottles lining the floor, this signified the end to a very long, but good night.