(1 Feb 2012: The Phoenix Concert Theatre Toronto)
When The Darkness exploded onto the British music scene back in the early 2000s, I could never decide with any certainty whether or not the 4-piece glam rockers were serious about the music they made, or just out there having a laugh.
The constant radio play of the 2003 single “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”, featured the piercing operatic falsetto vocals of front-man Justin Hawkins, and was a drastic departure from all other music getting played at the time. Add the spectacle of Hawkins gleefully parading around in skin-tight 80’s hair-metal outfits; it’s not surprising I missed the fact that beyond all the distractions, The Darkness was actually a damn good rock band. Sadly, the limelight was short-lived as Hawkins struggled with substance abuse and ultimately decided to leave the band in 2006.
When the announcement was made that the band would reunite with all original members (Justin’s brother Dan on guitar, Frankie Poullain on bass and Ed Graham on drums) and play Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre, I predicted it would draw considerable attention. As expected, the venue was packed that Wednesday night.
Shortly after 10pm, The Darkness stage banner dropped and the foursome launched into “Black Shuck” followed by “Growing On Me” from 2003’s Permission To Land. It was encouraging to see the crowd’s immediate enthusiasm, thanks in part to a wildly entertaining warm-up performance by Foxy Shazam, and it appeared Hawkins was enjoying the energy. The band also performed “Is It Just Me” and “One Way Ticket” from 2005’s One Way Ticket to Hell & Back as well as brand new material from their forthcoming album including the rocking “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” which drew wild applause at its finish.
The highlight performances of the evening were the awesome cover version of Radiohead’s “Street Sprit (Fade Out)” and the aforementioned fan-favourite “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” that the band had fans clapping along to right before the encore.
I was impressed by what I saw of the noticeably grounded and more mature Justin Hawkins. His vocals were spot-on but more importantly, he hasn’t lost any of the flair that makes his stage persona so magnetic. With Justin in control, a great pre-existing catalogue and their highly promising new material, The Darkness has exactly what it takes to get back into the limelight.