The Darkness | Review
Limelight, Belfast • Sunday 15 October 2017
By Emma McKinley • Photography: Conor Kerr
A sold-out show for The Darkness in the Limelight may seem unbelievable to those who haven’t been following the career of these Sussex rockers since their initial commercial success in 2003. Now with five albums under their belt and a bit of a reshuffle since Permission To Land, this band constantly prove themselves to have much more to offer than a couple of singles and a Christmas number 1.
With this in mind, MINDRIOT were in a sticky spot. Opening the night to an already packed venue full of eager fans, the Cork three-piece hard rock outfit come on stage with a full heavy sound, and a hint of Blink 182 peppered in the melody lines, passionately delivered by vocalist Tony Gorry. Aside from ‘Boy With A Tomahawk’, it’s catchy riffs and the occasional bit of banter, they’re arguably ill-matched with our headliners and unfortunately are unable to make much of an impact on the crowd.
The lights around us go down and everyone cheers; it’s finally time. Smoke machines on full, lights beaming blue from the stage, mystical pipe music playing for what seems like forever until at last The Darkness stroll out onto the stage and get stuck straight into their set with ‘Open Fire’ off their new album Pinewood Smile. The stage looks like some bizarre, exotic aviary with the brightly coloured, ostentatiously dressed male specimens showcasing their new material. We have vocalist Justin Hawkins dressed in his signature low-cut, skin-tight emerald green jumpsuit (complete with a matching sequin cape) and bassist Frankie Poullain in a bright red pimp suit hopping and flitting around the stage excitedly, completely in their element.
Justin, as a frontman, is hard to match. Within minutes of trying, he has the relatively subdued crowd laughing and chanting as he spends time between every song chatting to people in the audience. If he’s not wearing a bra on his back that someone tossed on stage, he’s borrowing someone’s phone to play Bonney M’s ‘Belfast’ through the mic before making up his own version especially for us, resulting in an extended sing song with the crowd.
Justin promises us the old songs as well as the new and as they break into ‘Love Is Only a Feeling’ and ‘Black Shuck’ and everyone stands with their hands in the air clapping and screaming along with Justin’s trademark falsetto. There’s barely room to breathe on the limelight floor and yet as soon as Frankie pulls out the infamous cowbell and commences ‘One Way Ticket’ the entire crowd starts dancing and jumping around.
Between Justin’s comedic digressions, they stay true to the promise throughout, playing everything from ‘Friday Night’ off their first album (Permission to Land), featuring Justin on the keyboard, to ‘Solid Gold’ off their new record. Although the newer material is not met with as much enthusiasm, perhaps due to a lack of familiarity, “we’re never gonna stop sh*tting out solid gold” seems entirely appropriate. Each members musicality is apparent. Despite having issues with their instruments throughout the set they manage to perform almost seamlessly. Even with crew members frantically running on stage with guitar after guitar for Dan Hawkins, he manages to pull off every solo perfectly without looking too phased about it. Frankie has a few difficulties of his own, even stopping altogether at one point mid-song due to tuning but manages to overcome his obvious frustration at the situation and comes straight back into the set.
Finishing with ‘Growing On Me’ they depart and return with an encore including a recap of ‘Love Is Only A Feeling’ for a disgruntled fan who’d missed the beginning of the set and ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’, which Justin introduces as a song that, “means a whole lot” to him. Even though we’ve all heard it a million times we all lose our minds, screaming at the top of our lungs and cheering relentlessly as the band leave the stage. While they may not be releasing any highbrow concept albums anytime soon this band’s brand of well written, tongue-in-cheek, glam rock n’ roll combined with showmanship at it’s finest is tailor-made for fun and engaging live performances and is enough to create a loyal fan base who’ll happily pack out venues to see them again and again.