The Darkness makes a triumphant return

By Vivian Pencz
[contributor]

The Darkness' frontman Justin Hawkins shows off his tattoos and patriotic leather pants in one of many costume changes. (Photo taken at Las Vegas show). Photo by Kim Croft.

A recurring declaration among Commodore Ballroom’s crowd last Friday [Feb. 24] was, “I’ve been waiting almost 10 years for this!”

And with an unforgettable comeback show that melted faces –– and hearts — The Darkness did not disappoint.

Adrenaline ran high from the get-go of the sold-out gig, Vancouverites being treated to surely one of the most amusing openers ever, American glam weirdos Foxy Shazam. Half-band, half-sideshow, the group somersaulted, danced with the microphone stand and ripped their shirts open, all while cranking out righteous rock ‘n’ roll.

The highlight of the spectacle had to be when singer Eric Nally, looking like a bite-sized Noel Fielding, smoked five cigarettes at once and then chomped them down like they were French fries. I’m not sure even Iggy Pop would do that.

A tough act to follow, but as soon as Justin Hawkins and co. took to the stage, tearing into classics “Black Shuck” and “Growing On Me”, the glam-rockers had the crowd in the palm of their hand. “Gimme a ‘D’!” Hawkins commanded. “Gimme an ‘Arkness’!” And we obeyed.

Watching them headbang through catchy new single “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” and the hilarious-as-always “Get Your Hands Off My Woman”, you’d never guess that The Darkness had ever disbanded. They seemed as happy and harmonious as ever, only having reunited with all four original members last March, chucking guitar picks to fans left and right, and Justin and Dan Hawkins sharing brotherly high-fives mid-rock-out.

Justin was all toothy, mustachioed smiles, sporting three or four flashy costume changes during the course of the gig, including a glittery catsuit with a stripe of porcupine-like tufts down the back.

As ringleader he was in top form: prancing, shimmying and tossing a pick in the air and bouncing it back into his hand with his foot in time to play the next riff. Solid gold, this frontman.

Mixing in some shiny new songs with the old, it was clear that the crowd needed some time to warm up to the alien material, but it was also clear that The Darkness haven’t lost their tunesmith spark. From their heyday hits to their recent rocked-fueled cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit”, these lads know how to put on a stellar show.

Hence the moshing frenzy that ensued at the eternally fun-as-hell “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, countless attendees attempting to match Justin’s glass-cracking falsetto.

An epic night crescendoed with “Love On the Rocks With No Ice”, which saw Justin riding through the crowd on top of a roadie’s shoulders while he expertly soloed, and Foxy Shazam’s Nally getting pulled out of the audience and onstage only to dive right back in.

Before split-jumping off the drum kit with a final slash of his axe ala Spinal Tap, our fabulous frontman had proclaimed that this was the sweatiest, loudest show of the tour and that this was his new favourite city.

Well, if The Darkness was feeling the love for Vancouver, Vancouver was definitely feeling the love for The Darkness.

Earlier in the set, when Justin Hawkins strummed an acoustic rendition of “Holding My Own”, which is probably the most emotional song ever penned about wanking, all the diehard-fans belted out the lyrics in one heartfelt chorus. He purred, “This is my favourite part.”

And we knew exactly what he meant.

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