The Darkness’ lead singer Justin Hawkins took a moment last Wednesday at Park West to share a bit of the band’s pre-show ritual with the crowd. He told us they all got together for a group has and he said, “I leaned in to kiss Frankie (Poullain, the group’s bassist), and now I’m wondering if I might have misread the situation.” It was a cheeky nod to both Hawkins’ pansexuality onstage and his deft talent as a raconteur. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the between song bits or the songs themselves are the biggest draw when it comes to seeing The Darkness live.
I’ve seen the band numerous times over the years, including their first tour when they played a bursting at the seams Double Door, but the last few tours have displayed a band who is comfortable and secure in their place. Years of various issues seem far behind the quartet, and when they hit the stage together, there’s a genuine joy in their performance. Dan Hawkins’ guitar playing is all power chords and thrust, while drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor (son on Queen drummer Roger Taylor) slips between brute beats and mind-bending fills.
The Darkness is all thrusting hips and skin-tight suits, but there’s something imminently accessible about them. Sure, there’s a huge dose of self-deprecating humor in their shows—they are well aware that their vibe is a throwback mix of ‘70s arena rock and ‘80s Sunset Strip. But there’s also a genuine presence to their performance that pins a whole in any overinflated ego. At one point I looked to my right to discover the girl who had been dancing to their music all night and been replaced with a dad toting his 6-year-old daughter dancing on his shoulders. The group may sing about sex, and they may curse up a storm, but in the end it’s all in good fun and the result is a charmingly family friendly affair.
The band’s set drew heavily from their debut, Permission To Land, sprinkling in other hits from throughout their career. At one point near the end of the set a few folks jumped onstage to dance with the band, after which Hawkins remarked, “I think you might have misread the situation.” As if to make up for the good-natured interruption, the band tacked on an unexpected final song, “Love on the Rocks With No Ice,” topped off with Hawkins riding the shoulders of a roadie around the room as he endlessly soloed on his guitar. It was both utterly ridiculous, and an utterly satisfying end to the evening.
Full setlist for The Darkness at Park West on April 11, 2018
Love Is Only a Feeling
One Way Ticket
All the Pretty Girls
Buccaneers of Hispaniola
Every Inch of You
Stuck in a Rut
Get Your Hands Off My Woman
Growing on Me
Japanese Prisoner of Love
I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Love on the Rocks With No Ice