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The Darkness - Rams Head Live

Diarrhea Planet was the perfect opening act, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. It was hard to know where to look with every single member bouncing around. The music was unabashed, hard driving, fun fueled rock and roll.

When The Darkness sauntered onto the stage, the crowd erupted in a collective roar, watching wide eyed as Justin Hawkins surveyed the crowd, clad in leopard print cape, a knowing smile on his face signaling foreknowledge of the impending audio debauchery. Rufus Tiger Taylor (drums) sporting a sleeveless Kill Bill inspired jumper with embroidered tiger, Frankie Poullain (bass), ever the dapperly dressed, flashing a gold (silk?) suit and Dan Hawkins (rhythm guitar) displaying a favorite Thin Lizzy jacket, took a few minutes to acknowledge the applause with ear to ear grins before settling into their respective real estate on the stage, ready to "melt some faces".

Once in place, Rufus entrenched at the kit, Dan struck the G power cord letting it ring and reverb through his stack of massive Marshall amps. Justin goaded the crowd for even more noise reveling in the energy projected toward the stage from the adoring American fans.

Justin Hawkins

Then, faint at first, the tinkling arpeggios cut through the air echoing left to right in real-time stereo signaling the beginning of the lead off song for the night, very well placed at the top of the set list...Open Fire! Time after time during the chorus, the crowd screamed along in affirmation that we too can live in the Dark(ness), if only lit by stage lights - no daylight needed.

Sparing no idle time, it was straight into Love Is Only a Feeling, as much of a ballad as you will get from this quartet. Black Shuck followed, much to the delight of the portion of the crowd that loves to sing along, lending their voices when Justin directed the microphone to them for their contribution for the chorus..."black shuck!"

And it was then that Justin paused for a public service announcement from the stage: there will be a Darkness live album! Madness, mayhem and a thunderous approval from the crowd ensued!

One Way Ticket, Givin’ Up and a cut off their new album, Pinewood Smile by the title of All the Pretty Girls continued bringing the Gibson fronted assault. All the Pretty Girls is their nod to the trappings (a term used very loosely here) of seemingly average blokes in a rock band and the spoils afforded that status, deserved or not. Just another reason we love these guys so much, not taking themselves too seriously (it's the Tour de Prance for cripes sake!) and calling it like it is. Does this take away from the mystique of their rock god consideration? Hardly! If anything, their self-deprecating honesty is forever endearing. Plus, the cynical view of the music business and the band's thumb of the nose to the machine is one of the things that attracted Rufus, who joined the group 4 years ago on the skins, to the guys, as he relayed in the Q&A. The band, admittedly, has always been tongue and cheek (even a little cheeky perhaps?) when it comes to the whole affair of the rock and roll show and the business of music. But that's where it ends in that they take it very serious in not taking themselves too serious! ;-)

Dan Hawkins

But, I digress...on with the show! Born out of his fascination of the medieval world of warriors, the UK collective launched into Barbarian followed by Buccaneers of Hispaniola which is a new cut from the recent album. And by this time, the energy from the stage was at its zenith. So much so that Justin required a little help in his mid-set wardrobe "change". With one foot on the stage and the other on the barricade, he lunged across with outstretched hand while Roxxy Summers and another female concert goer yanked on the sleeve so that his tatted torso might breathe free! And by the way, direct from Justin's mouth during the Q&A, his glittery leopard print skin tight onesies do NOT come from Selfridges or Harrods (custom made ONLY!).

Friday Night and Every Inch of You preceded the aforementioned satirical cynicism contained in the biting tune Solid Gold. Never self-censored, Roxxy Summers could not help herself in asking the guys during the Q&A how it feels to produce solid gold from their bums. The deadpan response from Dan was so The Darkness. Looking down the line at his mates for assumptive agreement, he admitted that it is hardly felt, alluding to the fact that they have been producing hits for a long time...and often.

Stuck in a Rut and the catchy Get Your Hands Off My Woman afforded the audience a call and response as Justin took the eager sing-a-long through a vocal exercise covering the breadth of his incredible range. Growing On Me brought the music back to the professionals before heading off stage for the encore break.

And if it seems the set list was heavy with their most successful album to date, Permission to Land, it was certainly by design. Admittedly in the Q&A portion, Justin acknowledged that they are at a place in their careers, and catalogue, where they can fill out a set list with their favorite tracks, the ones they really enjoy playing live.

Justin Hawkins

Chanting, yelling, clapping, whistling, whooping and screaming were all employed to draw the fellows from back stage to grace us with a few more ditties. And it worked! Justin's costume change, a la Cher, did not disappoint. Divulging the structure of their encore appearance by talking the audience through what was to take place, "Playing one, maybe two more songs, IF we as the audience did a decent job in singing along. Even at the end of a 90-minute set, we were more than ready to give it our all, leaving it all on the floor mixed with the empty cups and spilt beer.

And that's a trait found mainly in the US...a 90+ minute set by the Brits. The Q&A revealed that Justin and the boys look to extend the set as long as possible here in the States as they don't make it across the pond as often as the shows performed in their native European backyard. Much to the glee and appreciation of us "Yanks", we'll gladly gobble up more Darkness!

One last cut from the new album titled Japanese Prisoner of Love made an appearance before closing the show with I Believe in a Thing Called Love. If not literal, a love song dedicated to the crazed fans that came out on a Tuesday night to revel in the unmatched live experience that is The Darkness.

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