An unfortunate draw meant The Darkness happen to be performing at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit the same night as up and coming act The MacCabees were playing at The Magic Bag, and the legendary Sir Paul McCartney was playing just around the corner at Joe Louis Arena. Luckily, not much of their fan base seems to overlap, aside from roughly myself and…that’s all. However, it was never a question who I wanted to see, my pick was The Darkness.
Each of the aforementioned acts are at a different place in their careers. The MacCabees, despite being around for about a decade now, are still gaining exposure in the USA. We have all been to the “up and comers” show. There is the awkward experience of a handful of fans that know every lyric, while the majority of the crowd drinks and stares blankly for a song they have never heard before. Pass.
Then there is the living legend act, Sir Paul. He has been dropping hits since your parents were kids. Chances are, if you are a hardcore fan of this act, even if they play for five hours you probably won’t hear the deep cut that has become your favorite (Because you are a true fan. You can’t be seen loving those “radio hits” pssh.). The other issue is he is well beyond his pinnacle of performing live. He still can rock, but his voice isn’t as strong, his stage antics are never as exciting, and the crowd is just as old as he is. Don’t even get me started on his “new stuff” that is going to chew up 20 minutes of the setlist. Pass.
Then you realize why you HAVE to pick The Darkness. They are in that artistic prime. They have a catalog deep enough that you cant predict all the songs you will get, keeping it fresh. They have the swagger of a band that knows what their fans like. They have a crowd that is passionate and knows their catalog. Even for the casual fans, there has been enough radio friendly hits to make it worth their attendance.
As soon as they started, I knew I made the right choice as the kicked into their opening track from the new album “Last of Our Kind,” Barbarian. A great track that sticks to the persona The Darkness have created, a glam rock, falsetto singing, bonafide rock band. The costumes are ridiculous, the hair is insane, the pants are always tight, and the octaves are always high.
Lead man Justin Hawkins seems to have pulled in the reigns slightly since his last visit. Although, for Hawkins, pulling it in slight still results in a mint green, polyester pants and vest combo, with a faux Olympic Medal for his achievements in…rocking I guess. His hair is shorter and facial hair is gone, which I guess is all it takes to look more reserved.
They came in, grabbed Detroit by the balls and dragged us through the Darkness, beating us with power cords and bass lines (How’s that for over the top metal imagery?). The highlight of the show was not the shoulder riding guitar solo through the crowd, although it was pretty awesome. No, the highlight was Hawkins diving into the crowd only to “swim” his way to the stack of speakers, climb them to the balcony, hang off the side of said balcony and jump in the waiting hands of the crowd below. That’s rock n roll.
The one problem I had was the lack of his band mates playing a nice riff while he did all his shenanigans. Come on guys, I thought we were in this together! Most of his rock star moments had a soundtrack of complete silence, which was a bit awkward.
The Darkness played a great mix of their new stuff with their classic hits. Even at one point telling us, “All right, we are going to play our massive hit, make sure to sing along. And don’t forget about the clappy bit in the middle.” He was of course referring to “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” their final song before the encore. And clappy we did.
Refreshingly, the most popular song seemed to be their newest hit, “Open Fire,” which led off their encore. Fans continued to shout it out as though this was some kind of all request show. Either way, everyone was very happy to hear it. The final song of the night was the elongated version of “Love on the Rocks,” that featured the previously mentioned shoulder riding guitar solo, a long “repeat after me” chanting bit, and a two-minute final note.
On a day with shinning stars from the musical industry all over Detroit, The Darkness ruled the night.