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Live Review: The Darkness @ The Tivoli 8/11/15

A near capacity crowd filled The Tivoli to catch one of the UK’s greatest hard rock exports The Darkness. Led by the weird and wonderful Justin Hawkins, the British outfit delivered a powerful two hour set drenched in equal parts distortion and sweat, ending in a monumental stage dive and hundreds of blissfully ringing ears. 

On a not so rock’n’roll rainy Sunday evening The Tivoli played host to The Darkness’ first show in Brisbane since 2012. Three years isn’t that long to some, but with the release of two albums (“Hot Cakes” in 2012 and this year’s “Last Of Our Kind”) and a new drummer it’s been an eternity between shows for the loyal ‘Darkness Army. The crowd, a mixture of young women in floral dresses and men in black t-shirts with hard faces, claimed their vantage points well before the roadies finished tuning the plethora of Les Pauls to be played by the Hawkins brothers. 

If the abundance of beautiful guitars wasn’t enough, two huge Marshall stacks and an impressive bass rig took pride and place on stage surrounded by a lighting set up you’d more commonly find at the end of a runway than in a music venue. The excited chatter from the ‘Darkness Army ceased as the house lights darkened. After a confusing three minutes of a Ye Olde bagpipe tune the men of the hour swaggered on stage, plugged in, and saturated the crowd with a hot wave of distortion. 

Sporting flamboyant suits that wouldn’t make sense worn by anyone but them The Darkness exploded out of the gates with Barbarian, the opener of the recently released “Last Of Our Kind”. After waiting three years for this moment the ‘Darkness Army went off, with tits out before the song even reached its first verse. Frontman Justin Hawkins, wearing a Beetle Juice inspired striped suit, instantly captivated the crowd with a vocal range as impressive as his stage antics. Acknowledging the euphoric crowd Justin yelled “Give me a D!”, “D” [crowd], “Give me a Arkness!”, “Ark-haha” [crowd], before launching into fan favourite Growing On Me. With the ice well and truly broken Justin eyed off everyone on The Tivoli balcony as he nonchalantly shredded the song’s solo.

Justin ended the song with a jump before receiving a smartphone from a roadie. “My Mum and Dad are watching on Skype, say hi everyone!” Justin explained before handing the smartphone back and stripping down to just suspenders and his tight suit trousers. The next hard rock song ended with a wall of fuzz generated by bassist Frankie Poullain, looking like a cross between Ali G and Richard Ayoade from the IT Crowd, grinding his microphone over his bass strings. Normally this would sound somewhat obnoxious, but within the extremes of The Darkness it’s perfectly normal and entertaining.

An unannounced electric mandolin player in a fiery Mexican wrestling mask spontaneously joined the band for their next song but disappears before the song’s end. Justin makes no mention of the mandolin-wielding wrestler, again just normality for a ‘Darkness show. 

After a humorous cowbell intro by Poullain a sing-a-long erupted with One Way Ticket and Love Is Only A Feeling, which saw the return (and again the swift disappearance) of the masked mandolin player. An organ was brought out for the atypical Friday Night.Opening with an acapella verse, Justin impressively swapped between the organ and ripping guitar solos, sending the crowd into overdrive. Staying with the organ the band then played the quick tempo and falsetto-dominated track English Country Garden. With Justin’s hands busy on the organ brother Dan took over solo duties, before Justin cheekily sped up the song to ruin any hope of a clap-a-long.

A rare break between songs allowed Justin to drink his weight in water and massaged his shoulders. “I’m a middle aged man six weeks into a world tour and my voice hurts… but I’m happy to hurt for you Brisbane!” he explained. Justin then dedicated Get Your Hands Off My Woman, the band’s first single, to the man holding up the woman who’d been topless since the set’s first song. Halfway through the song Justin launched himself, microphone and all, into the crowd. Like a king he was carried through the mosh pit on his back as he continued to sing the song’s falsetto choruses.

Once their singer was returned to The Tivoli stage the British rockers launched into their most well known song I Believe In A Thing Called Love, sending the crowd hysterical. No one refrained from singing along, with the crowd momentarily drowning out the band during the “Touching You-ooo, Touching me-eee” pre-chorus. 

With the number one hit done and dusted the crowd conjured up a somewhat lazy “one more song” chant as the Brits took their obligatory encore break. Led by Justin now wearing only his tighty whities The Darkness returned to the stage and blasted through the lead single from their latest album Open Fire. For their final party trick Justin executed one of the most daring stage dives seen at The Tivoli, climbing and jumping off the second floor balcony into a strategically placed cushion of fans. With no hope of topping that feat Justin clambered back on stage and led one final fiery wave of distortion and cymbal crashes and, with one final ostentatious jump, ended the show.

Even though their glory days in the studio are behind them, The Darkness are still an unmissable live act. The somehow lovable psychotic nature of frontman Justin Hawkins means there’s never a dull moment, and tight pants, big hair, and huge guitar solos will never quite go out of fashion. 

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