OCTOBER 13th 2015
THE DARKNESS

Review by Lana Muirhead
Photos by Peter Ruttan

PHOTO GALLERY: http://www.metaltitans.com/concertpics/the-darkness/

A roar erupts from the eclectic mix of fans at The Darkness’ performance as the lights dim and the fading ambient music comes to complete silence.  No word of a lie: there was a dude with a legit mullet paired with a soulpatch and black-rimmed glasses standing next to a metalhead who was standing next to a punk who was standing next to a young chick in an acid wash jean dress. To say that The Darkness can bridge the gaps of humanity with their music is an understatement.

Band members Justin Hawkins (lead vocals, lead/rhythm guitar, keyboard), Dan Hawkins (lead/rhythm guitar, backup vocals), Frankie Poullain (bass, vocals) and Rufus Tiger Taylor (drums) took the stage to an electric celtic-type instrumental piece while the smoky air burned with purple back-lighting. Justin was unmistakable when he set himself up behind the mic in a black and white striped sequins suit.  Then again, so were the rest of the entourage, with Dan in a grey 80s style suit (complete with red tear drops) and Frankie rockin’ a demi-fro and blood-orange velour two piece. Each man brought his own element to the stage the culmination of which was an epic, entertaining set.

The boys broke the show open with “Barbarian” followed up with another new song off the new album “Last of Our Kind” called “Mudslide”. Though Justin Hawkins looks like a younger (but equally haggard) Mick Jagger crossed with Martin Short (a Canadian gem), his energy couldn’t have been higher. At the pinnacle of his showmanship, Justin was in a handstand clapping his feet together in the air to rile the crowd during “Get Your Hands Off My Woman”. Between songs he had fun little stories to tell about Vancouver being the best stop on their Blas of Our Kind Tour thusfar, the weed (of course), and about some “fucking cunt” ranting on the internet about them playing old stuff on tour.  To which The Darkness replied: here’s a “One Way Ticket [to Hell]”

If you have no idea what The Darkness are about, they hail from Lowestoft, Suffolk, Britain, and got their start back in 2000. They hit the peak of their fame around 2005 and took a 6 year hiatus while Justin sorted out some addiction issues.  Think testicle-piercing man-screams, wonky scaled vocals, and hard-hitting melodic guitar hooks.  It would be the pink bubblegum of a metalhead’s world if ever a metalhead were to dabble in the rock/pop genre.  Pointedly, Justin pointed out during “Friday Night” that Vancouver was the only city that would crowd surf during one of their “pop-iest” tunes.  Blurring the boundaries, however, is something that The Darkness does very well. They are able to formulate songs with the catch of a pop tune, meshed with the shape of a hard rock song, and the dance moves of a classic British she-man who lives to entertain. When The Darkness first got their start in the biz, they were hailed as a joke; their look, sound, and attitude toward the music was simply satirical.  Not much has changed except that The Darkness boys can now execute a profitable world tour. But make no mistake: they are still fooling around on stage, playing with vocals, and engaging the crowd at a cellular level. There was not a still body in the house, with everyone jumping and singing along throughout the set.

Justin (clearly the driving comedic force of the lot) gradually lost clothing as the night progressed. Starting out singing and playing the guitar in a suit, he degraded to singing and playing guitar in pants and suspenders, then got down to pants only whilst playing keyboards and guitar, and finally made a victory lap in his jammies (white boxers and white Thin Lizzy shirt) on the shoulders of one of the security guards.  Justin played his guitar into the crowd, behind his head, and glad-handed fans on his way back to the stage. The Darkness closed out with an extended version of “Love on the Rocks With No Ice” and the band calling for echos of random vocal chants from the crowd: which they happily answered. Not a soul in that venue can say that any better show could have been delivered.

As much fun as the show was, it would be irresponsible of me not to mention that the vocals were, all in all, mediocre. Part of the problem was likely the mic (which was rather spotty) but other than the wonky sounding, testicles burning while still attached yells, the actual singing was very average. Much the same can be said about the vocals on the opening act, These Raven Skies.  Whether both singers need to play a little more with their equipment when starting in a new locale, or neither is a real shimmering vocalist, that is a very subjective discussion. What is not suggestive is the underwhelming nature of the opening act.

These Raven Skies, consisting of Rob Holt (vocals), Alex Whitcombe (bass), Trevor Landmark (drums) and Shand Munro (guitar), put on a varied set with tunes that oozed Pearl Jam and the grunge era to those that were clearly deeply country rooted. Holt had moments of brilliance where he almost had a Bon Jovi-esque pitch, however the only real star that shone to this writer was guitarist Munro who killed an epic opening solo and carried the band the rest of the set. Without a doubt, The Darkness pulled me back from the abyss that was a lame opener to wow me with their crazy stage antics and downright homey dialogue. Although absolutely on the outer fringes of the rock/metal world, The Darkness were able to weasel their way into my musical library from their early days and still remain an integral part of my ‘feel good’ playlist. Cause hey: we all need a little reprieve from the angry/angst-y/depress-y world characteristic of the metal scene, if only for a moment.