The Gig: The Darkness
Where: The Phoenix
When: 1 February 2012
In One Word: Headstands
The Darkness kicked off their 13-date North American Tour selling out The Phoenix last night in Toronto. After taking a break in 2006, they are making quite a comeback. The band drew in a very diverse crowd, from young hipsters to middle-aged rockers eager to see them together again.
Foxy Shazam opened, an aggressive glittery rock band produced by the lead singer of The Darkness: Justin Hawkins. The crowd didn’t seem enthusiastic about the opening act, despite a warm reception for The Barenaked Ladies cover “This Is Where We Used To Live”. However, they did an acceptable job of displaying character and perseverance in a concert hall filled with semi-drunk fans anticipating the main act.
The crowd’s anticipation for The Darkness started to grow after Foxy Shazam ended. Justin Hawkins electrified the audience, emerging in a green tartan 3-piece suit (minus the dress shirt). Justin and the band sounded rejuvenated after their long hiatus; maybe that is exactly what they needed.
The audience exploded when the band led off the show with some of their classic early material. However, they have not released an album since 2005’s One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back and it was evident that they were eager to share new material as well. In between songs, Justin revealed that fans could download a new digital track and watch a new video for “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” for free on their website. It was also revealed that the band had completed a new album and that it would be released ‘soon’.
Personally, I felt skeptical and apprehensive before the show regarding the performance quality due to constant band member feuding during their hiatus. Justin left the band in 2006 and entered a rehabilitation program for drug and alcohol abuse. I was as curious as anyone to see the reformed Darkness, who have been back together recording and touring since last year. I was pleasantly surprised with the bands incredible enthusiasm and stage presence. All members displayed genuine passion and enjoyment and were clearly glad to be back. Fear not: tired washed out has-beens, they are not. Highlights included Justin’s acrobatic behind-the-head guitar solo and a HEADSTAND against the drum kit.
They ended the show with their catchy smash hit from 2003, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” which is a song I think most long-time Darkness fans can remember singing along to at one time in their life. As the band returned for the encore Justin had changed into a Toronto’s Bovine Sex Club shirt, which the crowd enjoyed. As cliché as it sounds, I think the band has somewhat of a soft spot for Toronto and Justin was pretty open with the audience revealing the last time he was here he had his penis pierced. The connection between the audience and Justin was genuine and you could feel it throughout the entire concert hall. The bands encore, “Love on the Rocks With No Ice”, solidified a memorable comeback, with Justin playing guitar while riding on someone’s shoulders into the middle of the crowd.
Although I had never seen The Darkness mark I, I doubt this will be my last time seeing Justin Hawkins parading around on stage. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and look forward to hearing their highly anticipated new album. The Darkness are back! Nothing is gonna stop them now.
© Alex Last, Music Vice
Pictures of The Darkness at The Phoenix – (click each photo to enlarge on second page):
The Darkness – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us”:
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