It wasn’t hair metal and it wasn’t a joke. It was The Darkness.
Some call it Spinal Tap brought to life – others say it’s the closest thing to seeing Queen in their heyday. still more simply describe it as the ultimate display of rock ‘n’ roll or rock opera majesty. But one thing is for sure: You had to see The Darkness to believe it.
Many Philadelphians did just that when England’s latest export brought its rock ‘n’ roll sideshow to the Theater of Living Arts (TLA) on Friday, April 2 and brought the city to its knees.
Stacked against a wall of Marshall amplifiers and a lighting rig that could put KISS to shame, the U.K. uber-group roared through a blistering set of material from their debut album, Permission To Land, tossing a few surprise cuts in between.
The Hawkins brothers, (Dan and Justin), showed off their guitar muscle on cut-throat tracks “Black Shuck,” “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” and “Givin’ Up.” The duo traded licks while front man Justin played to the crowd with unbridled charisma and an uncanny sense of showmanship.
Tongue-in-cheek cuts like “Growing On Me” and “Love On The Rocks With No Ice” showcased the band’s ability to wrap catchy hooks around tightly knit nuggets of sarcastic brilliance.
Bassist Frankie Poullain, looking like a character straight out of Treasure Island, used his bass cabinet to full advantage, and drummer Ed Graham provided the perfect one-two punch, laying down tight rhythms and room-shaking beats.
Hawkins, serving as ringleader and looking like a cross between Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant, (feathered unitard and all) kept the crowd energized with a full arsenal of lightning-speed guitar solos, mid-song high fives with brother Dan and more airborne jump kicks than David Lee Roth.
Hawkins even took the time to inspect several items that were launched on stage, including feather boas, bras, T-shirts and, yes, a shuttlecock. Hawkins proudly displayed each item before launching into the appropriately titled “Friday Night.”
The song, which Hawkins explained, focused on several different outdoor activities including the archery, ping pong, tennis and the aforementioned badminton.
He then quipped, “Mostly it’s about dancing.”
The clown prince of shred even managed to engage the packed venue in a full-on, falsetto sing-a-long session, culminating with the high-octave chorus, “Touching You, Touching Me, God You’re Touching You,” from the band’s hit single “I Believe In A Thing Called Love.”
But despite the antics and bravado, the band also found time to display its more sensitive side.
“See this lighter? That means it’s power ballad time, everyone,” said Hawkins before launching into the group’s slow-melting “Love Is Only A Feeling.”
For the band’s finale, Hawkins was hoisted on his security guard’s shoulders and carried through the crowd, intertwining Eddie Van Halen’s famous “Eruption” solo with his own unique brand of guitar firepower. After being carted back onstage, Hawkins coaxed his guitar tech/roadie to come out and dance alongside the rest of the band.
Several unitard changes and one encore later, the band thanked the packed house and disappeared offstage, leaving a stunned crowd to try and comprehend the 90-minute spectacle that had just occurred.
Dustin Schoof can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org