The Darkness became one of the great British rock success stories of the early noughties when they released their debut album ‘Permission To Land’ in 2003. This unashamedly tongue in cheek homage to rock excess was an unexpected runaway success going on to shift in excess of 1.5 million copies and earn The Darkness almost every music award available. 10 years on from the release of that album and the band have been through some notable highs (their 2012 album going straight in at number 4 on the UK album chart in a year where rock was direly underrepresented in the mainstream) and some extreme lows (going on hiatus due to frontman Justin Hawkins’ problems with substance addiction). However, one thing that has been never in doubt about The Darkness is their ability to put on a thoroughly good show, and their Friday performance at the Portsmouth Pyramids showed this remains as true as ever.
However, The River 68’s, the first band of the night still have quite a way to go before they reach such the lofty heights of showmanship that the headliners have. They had a lovely, authentic blues rock sound, and the lead singer had a fantastic voice, with more than a touch of Robert Plant about it. That said, they’re a two man band and they would be a more entertaining band to watch with a few more members, and the addition of some more instruments would allow them to add depth and variety to their sound too.
Next up were Lostalone, a trio of theatrical, Queen-loving rockers from Derby. Lostalone are one of those bands who always put on a brilliant live show and, even though they were only supports, this gig was no exception. Frontman Steven Battelle is a brilliant, if slightly loopy, frontman and even though his stage antics were very energetic, sometimes resulting in him leaving the stage entirely, his distinctive and powerful voice never so much as faltered. The entire band gave a peerless and polished performance entirely worthy of a headline slot all of its own. Even the slight rudeness from a minority of the crowd was just deflected by the band as they powered on through their set, which contained a couple of absolutely brilliant new songs. Overall, an excellent performance from a reliably talented band.
Finally, the lights dimmed, and with suitable pomp and fanfare, The Darkness made their way to the stage. They began their set with a selection of their later hits and some rarities and b sides that rarely get a live airing, including the endearingly silly ‘Curse of The Tollund Man’, a song so good you wonder why it was ever relegated to the musical purgatory of the b side. The Darkness are a band who have evolved into an efficient live machine over the past decade, with showmanship and energy levels that bands half their age couldn’t boast. Justin Hawkins is as charismatic and engaging a frontman as ever there was, with a fine line in amusingly cheeky stage banter and a large collection of skin-tight lycra catsuits, which left nothing to the imagination. The Darkness is no one man band though, and each of the members is a talented performer in their own right. By the time we reached the part of the evening where ‘Permission to Land’ was performed in full, there wasn’t a single member of the crowd not singing along in full force. Admittedly, the sound balance could have been better, with Justin Hawkins’ distinctive falsetto vocals occasionally being drowned entirely by deafening guitars. However, this didn’t seem to affect the hysterical crowd’s enjoyment at all, and as things drew to a close with a rousing rendition of Christmas classic, ‘Don’t Let The Bells End’ it was clear that a fantastic evening was had by all.