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THE DARKNESS Shepherds Bush Empire, London
8 June 2011

The Darkness, photo by Kay Oakley

The Darkness exploded into our collective hearts in 2003, selling out the Astoria Theatre in London as a then  unsigned band and reaching number 2 in the single charts with 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' and scoring a number 1 album with 'Permission To Land' selling over a million copies. The Darkness had brought FUN back into rock and the band were everywhere in the magazines and on the TV.

The Darkness then imploded in a cloud of the white stuff in 2006. Egos were getting out of hand, band members were sacked and the singer was marched off into rehab. The Hawkins brothers Justin and Dan decided to go their separate ways.

Justin Hawkins had a solo hit with a Sparks cover before a failed attempt at the Eurovision Song Contest, returned with his band Hot Leg which had critics cringing into their pint glasses.

The Darkness, photo by Kay Oakley

Dan Hawkins with the remaining members started up the excellent Stone Gods. However neither band put bums on seats and in the business side of rock 'n roll this is what it's all about in order to survive.

So it was no surprise when it was announced earlier this year that The Darkness were to reform although eyebrows were raised when The Darkness were given second billing under Def Leppard at this year's Download Festival.

In the last few years some great bands have filled in the void left behind by The Darkness. The band were renowned for being influenced by AC/DC but along came another band from Australia in the name of Airbourne who have the tightest rhythm section since the Young brothers and if you want irony or parody then look no further than Steel Panther.

The Darkness, photo by Kay Oakley

Time could be up for our Lowestoft friends, will they be given permission to land or will we be giving them a one way ticket to hell...and back?

You could say that The Darkness are back to where they started tonight as the band did share a flat just adjacent across Shepherds Bush Green when the band first moved to the big smoke in a attempt to hit the big time. Tonight is the third come back show, a warm up before the big one at Download.

Joing the Hawkins brothers are original bassist and drummer Frankie Poullain and Ed Graham, the very line up that we all fell in love with in the first place.

The audience is made up of rockers and surprisngly a large proportion of 'trendies' who are still in on the 'joke'. Judging by the screams that greet the band you could be misforgiven for thinking you're at a Justin Bieber gig. The Darkness still have that buzz!

Justin Hawkins looks like D'Artagnan with his curly moustache and still has the waistline to wear spandex trousers. The rhythm section can still kick butt but the falsetto wail of Justin Hawkins does start to grate after a few songs.  But The Darkness are still a whole lotta fun if that is all your looking for.

Second album 'One Way Ticket To Hell.....And Back' is largely overlooked with only the title track and the single 'Is It Just Me' getting an outing. When the band rock they certainly can do it in style as proved on their debut single 'Get Your Hands Of My Woman'.

Obviously for a smaller show the flamboyance of the stage gimmicks are missing this time around although there is a cannon of shiny confetti filling the air for 'Love Is Only A Feeling'.

Two new songs from the forthcoming third album were given a polishing off, 'Concrete' didn't immediately cement itself into my memory bank but 'Cannonball' was a hit with a great gritty riff.

The Darkness, photo by Kay Oakley

Of course 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' was going to be a no-brainer winner but the real highlight of the night was the encore of 'Love On The Rocks With No Ice' which saw Justin Hawkins doing his best Angus impression coming out into the audience on his roadies shoulders whilst rocking out on the guitar, splendid stuff which saw giant spaghetti raining down from the roof at it's conclusion. A nice job for the cleaners in the morning.

Does the world still need The Darkness?....Well it'll be a lot duller without them. I just wish the band were a bit more serious in what they do, because they can certainly crank out the riffs.  The real test will be the third album. The Darkness are still growing on me.

Set List : Bareback / Black Shuck / Growing On Me / Get Your Hands Of My Woman / One Way Ticket / Nothings Gonna Stop Us / Love Is Only A Feeling / Friday Night / Is It Just Me / Concrete / Cannonball / Stuck In A Rut / Givin' Up / I Believe In A Thing Called Love.....encore ..Love On The Rocks With No Ice

Review by Mark Taylor

Photos by Kay Oakley

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