The Darkness’ US tour took them through Austin, TX on Tuesday, April 5th, where they played the outdoor stage at The Mohawk. Like the rest of the world, the Red River District of Austin has ached from the Covid-related dearth of live music over the past two years, something that only recently has lurched back to life. On Tuesday, The Mohawk was jam-packed with bouncing, sweat-soaked fans who sang along to the British foursome’s brand of goofy-fun, bombastic rock. It felt a bit like time-travel, not just because of the social not-so-distancing, but also due to the convincingly authentic mix of glam, hair metal, and arena rock with some thrash sprinkled in for good measure.
It’s been nearly 19 years since The Darkness debuted with Permission to Land and made the world admit they still love hair metal with the hit song, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” While a lot has changed since then, the group was already hopelessly of a different time and place from the very start, boldly resurrecting a passé rock genre that was thoroughly killed by grunge ten years prior.
What accounts for the band’s impressive longevity, though, is the very thing that endeared people to them from the start: their extraordinary ability to achieve a precarious balance between novelty kitsch and loving earnestness. Lead singer/guitarist Justin Hawkins is silly in abundance, but then who cares if the music rocks this hard? It’s like that friend who says they love a cheesy song “ironically” but then sings along with such passion, it makes you wonder just how ironic that love is.
The band blasted through fan favorites like “Friday Night”, “Black Shuck” and the aforementioned “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” while Hawkins grew increasingly interactive with the crowd – handing the mic to fans, climbing up to the second floor balcony, even taking a dick pick with a fan’s phone after a late wardrobe change into an open-chested leotard (I can’t believe I just typed that). He later stage dove off a large speaker stack before a pre-encore break.
A Darkness concert is just a fun time. There is a crucial self-awareness about their approach to a begotten genre that makes them palatable in comparison to, say, Greta Van Fleet. It’s ok to laugh while simultaneously jumping up and down with the tempo. And it’s ok to sing along to lyrics like, “You are drunk and you are surly/In Latino lover mode” – whether you’re doing so ironically, or not.