Words: Alan Daly / Pics: Olga Kuzmenko (Olga Kuzmenko Photography)
The Darkness are a band I once scoffed at. They shot to stardom in the early noughties with their tongue-in-cheek debut album Permission to Land and somehow found themselves wedged into the metal genre by Kerrang! et al. So much so, they wound up supporting Metallica at the RDS in Dublin in 2003. At the time, they seemed like a ridiculous support choice, and the unforgiving Metallica fans in the front rows were not afraid to let it be known. With all due respect to the Lowestoft quartet, they stood their ground, faced the abuse, and put on what must have been a respectable show. Little did I know, that a decade and a half later, I would actually be looking forward to seeing them on another of their now-frequent visits to Ireland.
In recent years, they have played at some lesser-known venues around Ireland, and last night they brought their Tour-de-Prance to Dolan’s in Limerick. But this didn’t stop punters from snapping up all the tickets for tonight’s show in the Academy, Dublin. The venue is tightly packed when the houselights dim a full fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, and a massive cheers erupts as The Hawkins brothers, Frankie Poullain and new drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor take to the stage. There are no surprised faces when Justin appears in a sparkling green jumpsuit and cape, exposing his chest to well below his navel. His brother Dan is dressed considerably more casually with a zipped top, all but concealing his customary Thin Lizzy T-shirt. Poullain’s style lies somewhere in between, sporting a raspberry lamé suit, and looking as though he just stepped out of the seventies.
They open fire with, well, ‘Open Fire’ from their 2015 album Last of our Kind, before launching into the more familiar ‘Love is Only a Feeling’ which sees the crowd swaying their arms in the air upon Justin’s suggestion. With a brand new album Pinewood Smile hot off the press just days ago, it goes without saying that there will be new music aired tonight. The first such track is ‘Southern Trains’, one which was recently released as a video and takes an expletive-laden dig at the real-life Southern trains service that the Hawkins brothers had to endure during the recording of the new album.
The setlist is unsurprisingly dominated equally by songs from Pinewood Smile and their hit Permission to Land, with no less than seven drawn from each and the audience are afforded the opportunity to sing aloud with the expletives on favourite tracks including ‘Black Shuck’ and ‘Givin’ Up’. The intro to ‘One Way Ticket’ sees Poullain bring out the cowbell, which inexplicably prompts the audience to break into the dreaded “Olé, Olé, Olé” chants, and inevitably turning into a full band jamming session. On the second attempt to start the song, his drumstick breaks causing much hilarity and Justin to joke that they only have three sticks to last the entire tour. The majority of the new tracks seem to go down well, particularly the lead singles ‘All the Pretty Girls’ and ‘Solid Gold’. The only exception, and debatable let-down of the night is ‘Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry?’, featuring Justin on the keyboard, but that may just be a reflection of the comparatively inanimate audience during that song and is compensated for by a special treat for the Dublin fans in the live premiere of ‘Happiness’.
As the night nears the early curfew, a tasteless taunting of Take That’s ‘Back For Good’ precedes ‘Makin’ Out’, a bonus track taken from Permission to Land. ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’ gives Justin the opportunity to stretch his vocal chords and his legs. Literally. Whilst standing on his hands. Incredibly, he proves that he is still able to pull off those ridiculously high notes and sound comically pitch perfect (if that’s not some sort of oxymoron). Again, the crowd go wild for the fan favourite, and once more for the encore finale of ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’.
As the house lights come up, it’s apparent that everybody in the sold-out venue is beaming ear to ear, and whilst The Darkness can probably never be considered metal, they’re one of the finest, funniest, rock acts on the road. Check them out, enjoy the ride and don’t take them too seriously. Because they sure as hell don’t!
Myglobalmind’s Review of Pinewood Smile is here: