Yes, my friends, The Darkness survived the unrelenting pandemic, released a killer new record, hit the road, and proved once again that they can still bring it. And on Sunday night (4/24), the band wrapped its tour across the US in support of their latest offering, Motorheart, which may rival their debut, Permission to Land, as one of their strongest efforts to date. Like Motorheart, the band rocks and so do their performances. Though they may slide a healthy portion of tongue-in-cheek lyrics into their songs and present their sense of humor on stage, it’d be a lethal mistake to dismiss this band as a joke – a mock-rock band, like the Steel Panther, they are not.
This talented line-up features Justin Hawkins (lead vocals/guitar), Dan Hawkins (guitar), Frankie Poullain (bass/cowbell), and Rufus Taylor (drums/vocals). This potent line-up gave their all and at Boston’s Royale Night Club on April 24th, performing their hits, deep cuts from all their albums as well as new material from Motorheart.
After the house lights and PA cut out, the stage lights dimmed, and the band’s signature instrumental anthem intro got the show started, five minutes earlier than posted, which was much to the audience’s delight. Dan Hawkins walked across the stage, turned and waved before accepting his Les Paul. Rufus Taylor climbed onto the drum-riser and hopped behind his kit. Frankie Poullain strutted to his mark with his Thunderbird bass, leather jacket, bellbottom pants and sunglasses. Then the ringmaster, Justin Hawkins, clad in a vintage pink western get-up – playfully took center stage. After a quick greeting, the Darkness tore into the volcanic “Glasgae” gave Poullain the opportunity to rattle some cages by blasting his rig at bowel-shifting levels.
Justin Hawkins apparently did not need any time to warm up, as his vocals were spot-on right from the launch. The brothers’ dual-attack on their Les Pauls was perfectly matched and intense as they played off each other while Taylor aggressively laid into his kit and Poullain held the low-end down with gusto. “Glasgae” was a bold intro and with it, the band made it known that they were in town, to rock and roll with a vengeance. They then tore through the relentless “One Way Ticket”, “Growing on Me”, the gasoline-fueled “Motorheart” and the explosive “Open Fire” – one of the best songs from The Last of Our Kind (2015). Taylor’s drumming was impressive as he stayed focused and dynamic throughout.
“Solid Gold” was a crowd-pleaser, with its catchy chorus (courtesy of Taylor). During “Gold”, Justin Hawkins was seen happily able to get his signature prance on – presumedly gearing up for Permission’s “Givin’ Up” and the rockin’ roller-coaster from Motorheart, “It’s Love, Jim” which pummeled the senses before releasing the ferocious “Black Shuck” upon the masses. “Shuck” absolutely rocked the Royale to the foundation. Dan Hawkins, holding the rhythm section together like Malcolm Young of AC/DC, was clearly in his zone.
“Heart Explodes” from Easter is Cancelled (2019), was one of the two “ballads” of the evening, which allowed the band to take their foot off the accelerator for a short spell, bringing the energy down, creating space for the fun-loving sing-along of “Friday Night”. The second ballad,“Love is Only a Feeling”, is a true power ballad that successfully brings together power riffs, falsettos and hooks.
The Darkness then delivered a triple-shot of blistering rock and roll. “Japanese Prisoner of Love”, was spectacularly over the top with vocals and orchestrated guitar bits that would have made Freddie Mercury blush and Brian May proud. “Barbarian” left a bruising and the seething “Get Your Hands off My Woman”. All were perfectly placed in the set as three, fan-favorite sing-alongs – that would have worn out the casual concertgoer. However, the Darkness’ die-hard fans never let up – especially during the chorus of the latter.
After a well-deserved break, filled with the audience chanting for the Darkness’, the band reappeared looking refreshed and ready for more action. It was time for the band’s breakthrough hit, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”. The audience sang in chorus and at times seemed to be louder than the band’s mix that pumped through the monitors. The Darkness probably would not have made it out the building, had they not included “Love” into the set. Though the previous night’s shows all ended with “Love”, the band had other plans for the last show.
Justin teased the epic rocker “Love on the Rocks with No Ice” and the faithful Darklings lost their collective minds. Three-quarters of the way through the song, for one of Justin’s solos, he found his way off of the stage and on the shoulders of a friend, who then meandered through the sea of fans on the dance floor. Hawkins never broke character, as he steadily soloed on his axe while fans groped him, took pictures and recorded video – just inches from his face.
Hawkins was in his glory as he demonstrated another facet of his continued ability to interact with the audience – for which he had done all night long during and in between songs. After making his way back to the stage, together again with his mates – the Darkness brought the song and ultimately, the tour to a close. It was hard to tell who enjoyed themselves more, the band or their fans. Regardless, the Darkness came, they saw, and they conquered Boston once again with a brilliant performance to remember.