Can The Darkness still shine a light on good time rock and roll? HRH Mag’s Simon Rushworth reacquainted himself with Justin Hawkins’ national treasures 15 years after his first meeting with the Lowestoft quartet.
Like that favourite frosted glass bauble, the familiar scent of mince pies and brandy butter and the first moulded chocolate plucked from your young daughter’s advent calendar in the dead of night, watching The Darkness has somehow become synonymous with ushering in the festive period.
Of course it helps that the band responsible for a flurry of pomp rock activity during the past 15 years boasts a bona fide Christmas classic in the shape of Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End). But even without the perfect soundtrack to the most wonderful time of the year, the jocular Justin Hawkins and his willing helpers are the epitome of selfless generosity and hilarious holiday cheer.
It might have been the back end of November and a bitterly cold night in the wilds of North East England but there was a genuine warmth at the heart of a truly joyous show: experiencing The Darkness in 2017 is like sitting on Santa’s knee in front of a crackling log fire and being told all your Christmas wishes will come true.
It’s a comforting and cosy affair that is best enjoyed in the company of close friends and family. Granted, bare breasts are rarely seen inside Santa’s Grotto but it wouldn’t be The Darkness in concert without at least one full frontal flash.
A strangely bashful Hawkins initially brushed off the wobbling boobs (not literally) before returning to the incident and insisting his audience could do what they wanted – when they wanted – with their own bodies. Justin’s always been generous like that. Seemingly poised to share his own band member with a full house, the pig remained in its blanket.
Ringing out their carols for the 21st century, Hawkins, brother Dan, Frankie Poullain and Rufus Tiger Taylor partied long and hard on the back of a setlist designed to delight. The tinsel-hued triumphalism of One Way Ticket demanded an instant reappraisal of the lead track from that ‘difficult’ second album and Barbarian was gift-wrapped in a riff that would have the three wise men reassessing their life goals.
There might have been no frankincense or myrrh but there was Solid Gold. And the standout track from UK top 10 cracker Pinewood Smile added the audible sparkle to Hawkins’ shiny onesie.
Throw in a series of wacky pitches for the new Volvic advert and an impromptu ditty linking Henry VIII to a new castle (see what The Darkness’s frontman did there) and this was a show funnier than any joke in your granny’s cracker. Much funnier.
The mandatory rendition of Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) rang in the inevitable encore and it quickly became clear that more people still Believe In A Thing Called Love than believe in Santa Claus. Ho. Ho. Ho.
Exclusive images by HRH Mag Chief Photographer John Burrows