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THE DARKNESS, Juliet lewis & The Licks, The Ark
Alexandra Palace, London 8 February 2006

First time I have seen a live band at this rather grand venue (which until the 1950's housed BBC radio stations) and the walk up the hill keeps you fit! First up were Swedish band the Ark oh dear. The singer seemed to love himself and was showing of his err manly chest at every opportunity. The music was okay, a bit predictable and the singer was sadly crap. He had no depth and they are one of the worst bands I have seen in a long time.

Next up Hollywood actress turned rocker Juliet Lewis. Sadly again not that impressed, the music was good, solid modern punk/indie not a million miles away from say Green Day but Juliet Lewis failed to have the strong vocals needed to rise above the band's music. I'd stick to the movies, love!

Scarily this is the fifth time I have seen the Darkness in concert since first witnessing them supporting Def Leppard back in early 2003. The last time I saw them headlining at Wembley Arena I was disappointed mainly due to the lengthy and rambling onstage banter plus they didn't have enough songs back then to fill a headliners set having only released one album.

Last time Justin Hawkins rode in on a white tiger, as you do, but this time he was astride a pair of large flashing breasts! This was to loosely tie-in with the opening track 'Knockers'. Not a great track to start a gig with but they were soon off and running with a splendid run through 'Givin' Up', 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' and 'Friday Night'.

Biggest cheer of the night went 'Growing On Me' - a rocking little number about genital warts. Ballad time saw Justin on the piano singing 'Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time' before the band rejoined for 'Blindman'. Off went Justin's cat suit and out came his love handles!

As he said himself he has 'filled out' but he was still leaping and prancing all over the stage like some demented cross between Dave Lee Roth and Max Wall. The stage show was very pyrotechnic with flash bombs, flames and fireworks - Spinal Tap was never this much fun.

New bassist Richie Edwards fitted in nicely and even got solo spot in 'Black Shuck', whilst Dan Hawkins in his obligatory Thin Lizzy T-shirt kept the riffs coming all night. Good mix in the crowd from metal heads to lads on the piss via a hen party! Good to see also a six year old giving it the Dio approved devil horns during some of the set urged on by his mum and dad.

Encore time gave us the hard rocking 'English Country Garden' with Justin Hawkins playing a mock church organ and the set closed with 'Bald' off their latest album.

Much better than last time I saw them with Justin Hawkins cutting down on the aimless banter between songs although he doesn't quite yet work a crowd with ease of say Dave Lee Roth or Paul Rodgers.

Finally a big thank you to my wife and daughter for this surprise birthday present - they are the best!

Review by Jason Ritchie

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