Justin Hawkins of the Darkness. Photo by Laura Jerele.
Twenty years after the release of their hugely successful debut album Permission to Land, rock legends the Darkness returned to the states to support the 20th anniversary reissue of Permission to Land…Again. Since there was not a St. Louis date on this tour, I drove to Chicago and Indianapolis to catch their shows. And let me tell you, it was well worth the drive!
First up was a sold-out performance at the Vic theatre, which happens to be the very first venue I caught the Darkness back in 2004 on their first US tour. They punched right into the setlist with “Black Shuck” and “Get Your Hands Off of My Woman,” which had fans screaming and singing along to every word. Lead singer Justin Hawkins gave the audience just what they wanted right out the gate, complete with being clad in a trademark catsuit, massive stage presence and hijinks, that included a headstand with leg kicks in front of Rufus Taylor’s drum kit.
As promised by Justin, they played all the songs from Permission to Land, and rare B-sides like “Curse of The Tolland Man” and “I Love You Five Times.” The setlist was so perfectly ordered, it was like a gift to their longtime fans. Guitarist Dan Hawkins gets in (and stays in) such a groove when performing, he holds down the heaviest of riffs with an incredibly rich tone pouring out of his amps. The elusive and oh-so-stylish Frankie Poullain, clad in an extremely stylish custom-made suit, proves to be the most interesting bassist in rock n’ roll, holding heavy rhythm seemingly effortlessly in such high style. The addition of drummer Rufus Taylor has made the Darkness both heavy and bright and the chemistry between the four of them makes it seem like he’s been there from the start. Rufus brings his unique touch to each song—a fresh, stylish groove, but keeping everything true to the ways of the Darkness’ trademark sound and feel.
For their encore, the band made the evening even more memorable by coming back to the stage clad in slippers, robes, and, yes, their underwear! Ending the night with “Love on The Rocks With No Ice,” Justin hopped on the shoulders of his ever-faithful tech, Softy, playing his guitar as they made their way through the sea of fans.
The following night at the legendary Vogue Theatre in Indianapolis was another sellout crowd that packed the venue to where it felt like it was going to burst at the seams. Much like the Chicago audience, they screamed the moment the lights went down, sang along to nearly every word of every song, arms swaying in the air and jumping up and down with the beat of their favorite songs. And at the urging of Justin, putting their phones away when they played their massive hit “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” to be completely in the moment and not on their devices.
Giving performances with more energy and style than most musicians half their age are capable of, the Darkness are four very distinct and unique personalities, proving they are very much at the top of their game. They are ever youthful and happier than ever being in the groove performing their incredibly catchy songs that launched their career and bringing one helluva memorable and energetic show to their longstanding, loyal fans. | Laura Jerele