THE DARKNESS RETURN TO SCOTLAND TO PLAY GLASGOW'S O2 ACADEMY AS PART OF THEIR UK TOUR
Blackfoot Gypsies are the band getting the night underway in Glasgow for The Darkness. They are a real mix of different things, they dress like 70’s rockers, they play rock with a punk edge and energy but there is a southern states laid back swing to it. It’s difficult not to like them, their energy and zest is infectious. The 2/3rds full Academy crowd are appreciative but it’s always going to be difficult opening for an act like The Darkness as the crowd is so specific to them. A good opening set and lively performance…..
The Darkness come on stage to a Keyboard/bagpipe style intro played to the darkened hall with smoke rising and the blinding backstage lights glaring out at us. Justin and Co finally emerge looking every inch the Rock caricature they are synonymous with. Dan Hawkins is on first and dressed fairly conventionally in a Thin Lizzy baseball jacket and the Drummer Tiger Taylor is just as understated but Justin Hawkins and Frankie Poullian are quite the opposite.
Justin is sporting a Green all-in-one with the front scooped to reveal his wiry tattooed frame and Frankie is dressed as if he is going to a 70’s disco themed party in Red Zoot-suit, back combed hair, platforms and zapatta moustache.
They get right into Open Fire and the sound is loud, way-loud! I’m struggling to make out any definition in the lead playing and the vocals but it’s massively powerful. Justin plays his part strutting around the stage and the shapes he throws along with his confidence are truly entertaining. They go straight in to Love Is Only A Feeling and the sound has started to equalise, not sure if this is a change in the noise level or my ears. I can make out more of the vocal and Justin’s singing is on point. Regularly he takes his hands from the guitar and sways and immediately the, now sold-out, Academy crowd immediately follow.
Just before Black Shuck someone has chucked something on stage and Justin takes this in his stride he has a very easy, confident relationship with the crowd…using said item like a tambourine.
Frankie then brandishes a cow-bell, playing with this in numerous ways to the delight of both the band and the crowd. Then finally starts to beat out a rhythm which the packed venue turn into a rendition of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers. This kind of light hearted on stage play is a theme of the night and really makes the gig feel unique.
As they start Makin’ Out I’m struck by how simple but hugely effective their light show is as the lights play behind Hawkins’ Thunderstruck style intro riff. By this point in the gig the room is completely at his command, when he claps they clap, when he sways they sway, when he strips down to the waist…….thankfully there are limits!
The show is so slick that Justin seems to mirror the drum fills with his movements at the outro of songs. Feining a backwards trip down the steps in front of the drum riser in time to the bass drum kicks, followed but an almost Dave Lee Roth style jump to finish the song.
The last three songs of the main set are from Permission To Land and the energy level in the room is just willing the band on. Justin likes to play games with the crowd between songs and proceeds to taunt with impromptu, off the cuff, snippets of other songs almost fishing to see if the crowd bites and starts singing along. Wanted Dead Or Alive got a rousing Glasgow crowd singing back but Jim Diamonds I Should Have Known Better fell a little flat. He also wears some Xmas lights round his neck moving them to his crotch for a few tracks and at one point fishes something from his costumes crotch and throws into the crowd……all very tongue in cheek humour.
He also points out that Frankie’s Mum is in the venue and seems to make up a wee ditty off the cuff to her and get the crowd singing to her, which all add to the unique nature of the gig.
The Set finishes with high vocals of Growing On Me and Justin tells the crowd how they are going to bring them back on for an encore. I didn’t really see the point of going off stage after that but I suppose it’s part of the pantomime.
The Glasgow crown chant and whoop and hail them back to the stage and there is even the obligatory Here We, Here We, Here We Fuckin’ Go…….The band come back on stage new outfits new guitars (A gold glitter Les Paul for Justin) and it’s Xmas time with a rendition of Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End).
They close with I Believe In A Thing Called Love and the place is in raptures it’s a great song, the light show is ideal and the sound seems perfect now. A great gig, a very energetic performance and professional show, apart from the slight sound issues early on I don’t really have a bad word to say about this all the Spinal Tap cliches appeal to the old rocker in me.