The Darkness’s reunion tour recently saw them visit the Southampton Guildhall, and, despite a five-year gap since lead singer Justin Hawkins’s departure from the band, the spirit and bombast which made them so popular back in their hey-day has not disappeared one bit.
Support was provided in the form of Crown Jewel Defense and Foxy Shazam. The latter were brilliant, and almost outshone the headline act with their mix of Death from Above 1979 vocals and heavy metal. They shocked the audience with their uniqueness, with the performance comparable to a musical version of House of a Thousand Corpses.
Despite a high quality support act, The Darkness’s performance in general was pitch-perfect. Hawkins’s falsetto screams were quite a spectacle as they reached pitches that even dogs would struggle to hear. The rest of the band also performed perfectly, mirroring Hawkins’s energy throughout with their skillful accompaniments. The band’s small back-catalogue of two albums (2003’s Permission to Land and 2005’s One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back) provided an unbelievable amount of hits, with the audience recognising every song minus two, which will feature on next year’s new album.
It seems unbelievable that a band with such a short history could have produced so many catchy songs. ‘Get Your Hand Off My Woman’ was the first song that really got the audience interested, played with far more energy than opener ‘Black Shuck’; the band were clearly loving the warm reception their return to the live circuit was receiving. The biggest track of the night came, somewhat obviously, in ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’, which was cleverly saved for the encore. The song was unarguably the peak of the performance, as the band performed it with an energy that would make you forget it’s been nine years since it came out.
‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)’ was also a highlight, taking the whole hall back to Christmas 2003 where it almost unavoidable due to its success. A surprise cover of the night was a metal version of ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ by Radiohead, which took the original and glammed it up to Muse-like grandeur. It was far superior to the almost obvious cover of ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ by Queen, which paled in comparison.
Despite the audience getting involved for the biggest hits, there was often a disappointing lack of involvement from the crowd, with Hawkins noting “you lot are fucking quiet!” halfway through the set. While undeniably acknowledging the band, there was a lack of spirit in the audience that is key to the performance as a whole. This was not the band’s fault, and as such it was often quite disheartening to see them putting so much effort and energy into a performance that people were simply observing rather than immersing themselves in.
Overall the performance was consistently full of life, with every song presenting the tongue-in-cheek electricity that makes The Darkness who they are. Despite playing to a crowd who didn’t even seem to be able to get into ‘Love Is Only a Feeling’, the band have surely reminded everyone that they are a force to be reckoned with.