The band The Darkness is a band that charged onto the rock scene in 2003 with the over-the-top Queen-esque hit “I Believe In a Thing Called Love,” to the love of some who wanted some of the 70’s rock god sheik back and to detest of many who felt they were all that was wrong with rock gone to far. Whether are one of the lovers or haters, you’d have to admit this was one rocking show with fans rabid to take in the experience after so many years of being deprived of their bombastic heros.
The show started off with a seriously horrible opener called Crown Jewel Defense, who seemed to feel it was time to bring back the 80’s glam band era but seemed to have no idea how to pull it off. Many in the audience seemed to feel they were okay, but there were few absolute fans that I could see or hear, apart from polite clapping after a few songs.
That lack of originality was remedied quickly by the next band Foxy Shazam, who for me, totally stole the show. They had all the elements of the ridiculously excessive rock band gone awry that you’d want from a show of this caliber and so very much more. With the total air of not giving a shit, but clearly here to rock your soul nonetheless, this Cincinnati, Ohio band sent all in the now packed house into total rock shock. Lead vocalist Eric Sean Nally had his effeminate lisp strut and boasted it around like his ass breathed fire, rolling and leaping about with total abandon, reminding me of a heyday Iggy Pop, and taunting the audience with jokes like “Roses are red, violets are blue, Foxy Shazam baby, fuck you!” before tearing into a great rocker “Oh Lord.” With hilarious antics that left his mike stand in shredded pieces and his body bruised by the end, like calling out for a cigarette during the scorching “Temple,” and as someone tossed one and he caught it and flung it into his mouth, he motioning for more counting out each one until his mouth was full, and one of the security obliged him with a light, he smoked them all at once as he screamed out the rest of the tune, and then in a disgusting display, began to chew on the half a pack of nicotine and tar in his mouth then saying, “This whole cigarette thing is getting old! It’s starting to make me sick!” Not to be outdone, the whole band had all that you needed for a quality rock unit, with long goat-bearded keyboardist Sky White playing up to the audience alot, several times taking his keyboard and passing it to the crowd to play and being a generally very animated character, guitarist Loren Turner turning out some scorching solos and powerful riffs, and bass player Daisy and drummer Aaron McVeigh somehow keeping the tempo through all the madness, with trumpeter and backing vocalist Alex Nauth adding a nice festive fair to the sound. Since their beginnings in 2005 they’ve put out a few releases, so they already had a large catalogue to draw upon, but this night they mostly kept it to new stuff from their just released The Church of Rock and Roll like the booming title track, “I Like It,” and “Holy Touch,” with “The Only Way To My Heart…,” closing out the set with Nally lunging into the audience for some close loving with the crowd.
During the long wait between bands piped in Bad Company and Genesis tunes kept everyone amused enough, but when the classic “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy abruptly came blaring on, everyone felt it the purrrfect song to get pumped for what was to come. The Darkness strolled out onstage to strobing lights and triumphant music for the first time in the US in over seven years, since lead singer Justin Hawkins had to go to rehab in 2006, and the band attempted to go on without him with little success. Now back with the original lineup, this was to be an explosive rock opera a long time in coming, with all the mega rock posturing, costume changes, duck walking, leaping around stage, fist pounding, serious silliness, behind-the-head guitar-playing, bra-throwing, and random bouts of head banging to their hits from 2003’s Permission to Land and 2005’s One Way Ticket to Hell … And Back, and, yes indeed, their first new material in almost 7 years. Hawkins came out at first stuffed into an aptly gaudy sleeveless leather American flag vest and pants, that soon enough was stripped off to show off his tattoos and nipple piercings, but only to put some more makeup on a true musical talent who showed off his sustained extensive falsettos and truly stunning guitar soloing all through the night. The collection of seemingly hundreds of different guitars lined up on both sides of the stage gave you an idea of the musical prowess that would be shown thought the 21 song long setlist, as he and his brother guitarist Dan Hawkins as well as the rhythm section of Ed Graham and Frankie Poullain would amp-up and crank out throughout a two-hour spectacle. Hawkins’ vocal range was still front and center kicking a modern-day representation of a goateed and tatted Freddie Mercury, with lots of straight ahead rockers as well as the boisterous Queen-era progressive rhythm/style change galore styled music, and a flame tattoo coming out of his crotch area must have meant this guy has a burning from down below to show off! Opening with a real rocker from their first “Black Shuck,” and continuing with more like “Love Is Only a Feeling” and “Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman,” then acoustic jams like “Hazel Eyes” and a beautiful Hawkins solo rendition of “Holding My Own” that jumped right into the head-banger “Love Is Only A Feeling,” and the new material including the hot new single “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” that really did have all the cool elements of a big hit for them. The big surprise of the night came with the cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” which brought along a huge sing-along with the Summit’s sold-out crowd. Of course, it all came to a powerful closer WIN with “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” but was followed by a guitar riff fueled encore of new songs “Bareback” and “Love on the Rocks With No Ice.” It was a night of some surprises and rebirths, but also just what you’d expect and want from a night of ostentatious and flamboyant Rock and Roll!