The Darkness – live review and pictures (Sheffield)

Posted on 23 November 2011
By Lara Cullen
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The Darkness have never done things with any degree of moderation and marvellously their recent hiatus has not changed this one bit.

It’s impossible to come away from one of their shows without being thoroughly entertained. The catsuits, big hair, tattoos, ear piercingly high pitches, a wonderful dose of camp and some fine rock songs thrown in for good measure too are par for the course now with the Suffolk glam rockers and this Monday night Sheffield show was no exception.

Since reforming with the original line up earlier this year The Darkness are touring material from their first two albums before they unleash a new album upon us in early 2012.

They drew a good sized crowd and from the moment moustached front man Justin Hawkins, guitarist Dan Hawkins, drummer Ed Graham and bassist Frankie Poullain, take to the stage the crowd in the Academy basically went nuts and kept up their enthusiasm and energy all throughout the set.

It was a party from start to finish with every song causing a mass bounce along, the biggest reactions going to the best known songs – Growing on me, Hell and Back, Love is only a Feeling.

Between songs the crowd chanted the lead singer’s name religiously. Hawkins seemed genuinely touched and encouraged them to show the same love towards the rest of his band mates, which they did with equal enthusiasm.

An impressive number of costume changes for the frontman ensued, from the tartan three piece suit he started off in, to numbers performed bare chested, to top hats, to ridiculously flamboyant catsuits Hawkins is a joy to watch and left the crowd constantly guessing what will come next. (Cartwheels across the stage, scissor jumps, and head stands on the drum kit in case you were wondering). Frankie Poullain and Dan Hawkins were equally animated and fun to behold.

It was a mainly older crowd but amazingly fired up for a Monday night. As the sweat poured off band and crowd alike Justin Hawkins promised Sheffield they were in danger of being the best crowd they played to on the tour so far… a crown held by Birmingham until then.

He later confirmed the deal was sealed by virtue of the fact his moustache had wilted from sweat for the first time this tour.

A lovely acoustic version of Holding My Own in the middle of the set was soft and gentle as a few super fans sang along contentedly. The change in tempo was just a temporary shift until the high energy proceedings got back to normal and the band were leaping about the stage as normal. Later in the set “Friday night” got some awesome crowd interaction and an unexpected Radiohead cover was thoroughly enjoyable too.

The best thing about this being a November show was that they could justifiably include Don’t Let The Bells End in the set, and of course being The Darkness white confetti snow fell from the ceiling throughout the number. The voices of the crowd overtook Hawkins twice over. I Believe In a Thing Called Love was of course saved for the encore and the crowd left happy and singing into the cold night.

A review of the evening would be incomplete without homage being paid to the phenomenal support The Darkness took on the tour with them.

Crown Jewel Defence opened proceedings and were fun if not fairly typical American glam rockers. Foxy Shazam however came on in the middle slot and blew the crowd away with their energy and stage antics.

The Cincinatti band were falling all over themselves as they writhed, rolled and somersaulted across the stage. If Noel Fielding and Freddie Mercury had a love child it would be Foxy Shazam vocalist Eric Sean Nally. His between song banter was quirky and funny and he is a natural loveable showman who won the band many many new fans that night.

The material holds up on its own as well but this is a band that need to be seen live and will put a smile on anyone’s face.