Darkling Does Dubai!
Friday 25th March 2005
(as usual, apologies for any mistakes in this – any misquotes or errors in the setlist are down to me and my over-excited brain making things up – sorry)
Friday 25th March 2005, 2pm. I’m in Dubai, at the Country Club – it sounds posh, but its basically a dustbowl in the middle of the desert. Take the motorway out of Dubai, turn left, drive into the desert and there you are.
The posh bit of the country club is in the distance. I’m queuing up outside the Rugby Ground, waiting to go in and join the Desert Rock festival, where I shall shout, scream and generally wet myself …. as The Darkness are playing!
In keeping with my vow to go to as many Darkness shows as possible, I’ve just travelled halfway around the world to see them. And I’m now standing in blistering 40°C heat surrounded by the oddest collection of people I’ve seen in ages. All of whom are pointing and laughing at the sparkly Darkness t-shirt I’m proudly wearing.
OK, so I do stand out a wee bit. The diamante on the t-shirt sparkles in the sunlight, matching the glitter in my hair and the spangly bits on my bag. I scan the people walking past, and the only other Darkness t-shirt I see is the one my dad (Malc) is wearing. OK, so maybe they aren’t big Darkness fans over here.
After collecting my ticket, I go to pick up my wristband. Due to the strict alcohol laws here, the wristbands are colour coded depending on whether you are over 21 or not. The wristband guy makes my day by asking me if I’m over 21, and Malc pisses himself laughing.
From there its on for a generous body search involving tracker dogs, radar guns and latex gloves and lots of lubricant. I’m joking ….. there were no dogs. As well as looking for weapons and alcohol, security were also confiscating any cameras they found. As I’d been warned about this beforehand, I didn’t risk taking a camera ….. and I’m glad, as my plan of hiding it in my pants would have been discovered (as the girl in front of me with a camera in her pants found out).
Which means of course, I have no pictures to share with you. Sorry about that – I’m just as devastated, as this was the first Darkness gig I’d been to without my sister and I wanted some pictures to show her.
OK, so I’m in. I go and have a look at the stage, which is sat in a dusty field. Big stage, big screens, the usual bunch of bars and food stalls, lots of people wandering about. Malc and I go and buy a book of vouchers, then use the vouchers to buy some drinks. Just beyond the main arena there is a seating area and another bar, with a big screen so we can watch the show sitting down and in easy reach of the bar. Fantastic.
This is our base for the day. Decision was made when the compere came on stage to announce the acts …. and told us that The Darkness were headlining and wouldn’t be on until 11pm. Bugger. So we stay put, drink, eat, drink, and chat with some British lads who work in Dubai and have never seen The Darkness live.
I should say something about the other acts, which I didn’t pay a huge amount of attention to as I was there for one reason only.
Juliana Down – local band, big following, noisy and incomprehensible
Nervecell – ditto
Saxon – didn’t show as the lead singer’s house had burnt down the day before
Sepultura – nothing special
Within Temptation – lead singer got on my tits so much, trying to be like Amy Lee from Evanescence and not pulling it off. They shut up at 8pm and I breathed a sigh of relief – it turns out it was for prayers, as Friday is the holy day in Dubai and everything stops for official prayers at 8pm. The band came back afterwards and continued for what felt like a fortnight.
Machine Head – loud, thrashy, annoying, kept screaming “fuck you Dubai” at the crowd.
Apologies to anyone who is a fan of any of the above bands, you probably would have loved it.
Inbetween the acts above, there was an air guitar competition, which made me laugh my arse off, as everyone who took part was obviously drunk, stoned or both. The music played during the set-up of each band was awesome – lots of classic rock such as Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Van Halen, Guns n Roses, etc.
Halfway through the day, I almost killed Malc. He went off to the toilet, and came back with an enormous smile on his face. “guess who I’ve just seen?” he says. Me: “don’t tell me, Dan was in the toilet, he asked if Taffy was here, and gave you two backstage passes” Him: “nope, I wandered down to the stage, and Frankie was in the backstage area looking over the fence having a beer. I waved, he saw me and gave me the thumbs” Me: “aaaargh!!!!!”
I raced down to the stage and hung about outside the press tent peering over the fence, but no sign of any of our boys. Bugger.
Anyway, the day wore on with lots of alcohol, gossip and factor 30 sunscreen. All in all I counted about 20 Darkness t-shirts in the whole place. After Machine Head’s set, I dragged Malc back onto the field, so we could plant ourselves in a good spot. As there was only about 15 minutes between bands, I didn’t want to hang around.
We park ourselves about 15 feet from the stage, directly opposite Dan’s normal stage position. The stage is a hive of activity, with road crew running about setting up. The keytar is brought out and set up at the side of the stage, which puts a bigger grin on my face. I’m sure I can see Sue and Charlotte at the side of the stage, so I give them a wave which they totally don’t see, but never mind.
Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ strikes up, and the stage starts to clear of crew. As Thin Lizzy ends, the lights go down and the place is in darkness (get it?). Then the stage is bathed in blue light, and ‘Arrival’ starts. My legs go wobbly from excitement and I cling on to Malc – who tells me to get a grip and stop being a girl. I wave my light sticks in time to the music and try to make my legs behave. Then Arrival ends and the stage goes dark again, before the lights fire up, pulsing in time to the opening beats of Grief Hammer. As the lights flash, I can see Ed scurrying behind the drums, then Dan and Frankie appear either side of the stage. Finally Justin storms onto the stage and the crowd roars. “how’s it going there Dubai” screams Justin, as a wall of flames shoot up in front of him.
They rock through Grief, carrying the crowd with them even though 99% of them haven’t a clue what this track is. My 0.2% of the crowd rocks its considerable arse off though, and by the end of the track I’ve cleared a small patch of desert around Malc and myself, as people duck to avoid my flying limbs, bum, etc.
At the end of the track, Justin comes forward and I get my first good look at him. Mmm, looking divine, in the same costume he used for the Winter tour – brown leather trousers, lilac peacock shirt, scarf holding his hair back. Dan is looking super-fit in very tight black trousers and a black and silver Thin Lizzy t-shirt. I couldn’t see Ed as he was behind his drums, but from my inspection at the end of the show he was in the usual jeans and t-shirt. Frankie was sporting the most enormous hair I’ve seen on him for some time, along with black leather trousers and a black and purple floaty shirt.
Justin tries to get the crowd going with a bit of Arabic. About four people respond, as the crowd is largely English, American and Australian. So, we get a translation – apparently he said “hello, we are The Darkness” The crowd yell back at him, as the band launch into Giving Up – a surprising choice considering the country’s attitude to drug abuse (and a guy behind me says to his mate “they can’t sing this, its not on”). Justin does change the words slightly – “fucking shit” becomes “shucking fit” and the “fucks” are so high pitched they just sound like a scream. Justin manages to get the crowd clapping and rocking in time to the beat, so there is hope for them. Of course, I rock like a maniac.
Justin then tries a bit more crowd rousing. “Give me a D” he roars – about half the crowd react (tsk). But he’s a persistent bunny, so he carries on “give me an Arkness” – again about half the crowd knows what he’s on about.
We are then treated to a wonderful sight – Justin’s bum wiggling on the big screen as he sings “kiss my ass, kiss my ass goodbye” and they do Stuck in a Rut – again with optional swearing. We then get Dinner Lady Arms, which puzzles the blokes next to me – he yells to his mate “what’s aaaaaargh?” (arms, dear) Again, most of the crowd are bewildered with this, as its new (but I love it). During the guitar solo, Justin runs over to Dan and wiggles about behind him, making him laugh.
Its customary at this point for some clothes to be shed, but Justin says that he isn’t allowed to strip. He teases us though “you’d like me to, wouldn’t you?” So, sadly the shirt stays on and there is no glimpse of flames. Utter disappointment from the Taffy section of the crowd, but never mind.
Then – one of my favourite bits – the frankly horny guitar intro to Making Out, complete with pyro accompaniment. Dan looks fab as he rocks over to the front of the stage, shaking that gorgeous hair everywhere. This is followed by Physical Sex, again with an explosive intro and with an interesting hand gesture from Justin on “touchy feely woman” – I wouldn’t mind seeing that in close-up. Justin has to customise it though ….. it becomes “Dubai …. brrrrrring me sex!” I’m sure you can guess my answer to that one. Once again we get Dan grinding his guitar at the front of the stage before Justin leaps in with his bit. Awesome.
Justin has another go at wooing the crowd “who here has heard of our album Permission To Land? It did quite well!” An answering roar of approval from the crowd. Justin: “well, this is track three from that album ….. Growing on Me!!”
This one really gets the crowd going, and finally we see movement through the whole crowd, rather than just bits of the crowd. Although the crowd singing isn’t anywhere near as loud as at Wembley, its enough to show the lads that they aren’t alone there.
Afterwards, Justin announces that its power ballad time. He says “imagine you are walking along Jumeirah Beach (swanky beach in Dubai, went there, was fab) with your loved one. Now imagine snuggling down on the dunes with your lady and probing her gently. I don’t mean probing in a rude way (cheeky grin and wink), I mean probing her with questions, such as what do you want for dinner, or would you like to dance. Well, that warm and fuzzy feeling you get from being with your lovely lady, I want you to imagine it now”
“Right, so now you’re all in the mood, we’re going to do our power ballad – Love is only a Feeling. Let me see if you are in the mood” Obviously the crowd wasn’t, as he teased them for the lukewarm response. He wanted to see more animation in us – excited but not rabid.
And away we go into LIOAF, with the crowd swaying in unison, waving cigarette lighters, lit up mobile phones and a couple of lightsticks (me).
After LIOAF, a member of the crew brings the keytar out to centre stage (cheers from Taffy and Malc, odd looks from everyone surrounding us). Justin does his usual twatting around, playing chopsticks, then the piano intro to Bohemian Rhapsody, whilst Dan plays the guitar piece. A crowd of British lads behind me obviously thinks that they are going to do a cover and sing along very loudly, and Justin has difficulty getting them to shut up. They shut up eventually, allowing Justin to get a word in.
“We played a few gigs at Wembley last winter, were any of you there?” A huge roar “YES!!!” from Malc and myself, which Justin obviously doesn’t hear as he looks a bit disappointed. “Well, none of you will know the answer to this question then …. is this a keytar or a guiboard?”
Puzzled silence from the majority of the crowd. A roar of “keytar!!” from my bit of the crowd.
Justin then asks “Who is on holiday here? Shall we play a holiday song?” The crowd responds by singing Amarillo, led by the British boys behind (again), and Justin keytars along. He then leads the crowd in DJ Otzi’s “Hey Baby“, before switching into “Agadoo” and capering madly around the stage. His bandmates just watch and laugh, with a “yes, he is a twat” look on their faces.
Justin then starts to play Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to say I Love You” with many deliberate wrong notes. The strongest swear word he uses is “flip!” which makes Dan laugh. “ I don’t want to cause offence, they lock you up for that here” jokes Justin.
OK, enough buggering about. The band rock everyone’s socks off with a blistering rendition of English Country Garden, without the optional twatting about in the middle we saw at Wembley.
This is followed by more crowd talk from Justin. “We were wondering if we should rename the next song, as Friday in Dubai is your holy day and equivalent to our Sunday. As the Dubai version of Friday night happens on a Wednesday, we were going to name the next song Wednesday Night. Now who wants to dance?” And off we go into Friday Night! The crowd follow Justin’s arm movements perfectly and he seems pleased.
After this, there was a brief break. The band leave the stage, and the crowd start shouting “We want Darkness! We want Darkness!” I’m not sure who started that one off *innocent eyes* The band return to the stage, with Justin in his silver sparkly Dior catsuit. He hops and skips about the stage, possibly getting the catsuit settled nicely, before picking up his guitar and thrashing out the first chords to I Believe in a Thing Called Love. The crowd definitely recognise this one, and go fucking mental! I spot a gap and move closer to the stage for a closer look.
This one really gets the crowd moving – and I almost fall over, I’m rocking so hard. He demands thumbs from the crowd, and gets them. During the guitar break, I get a close-up eyeful of Dan shaking his hair all over the place, as Justin scoots from one side of the stage to the other. He stops at my side of the stage, and does a guitar hump (think the video to Band Aid 20) practically in my face. I fall over dead but very happy. Actually, I manage to stay on my feet, dazed and more than a little damp (I was SWEATING! It was hot in that crowd! Honestly!). And a result – the crowd handclaps in time!
The song ends with a storm of cheering from the crowd. As the noise dies down, a woman at the front of the crowd yells “I want your babies!” to which Justin replies “I didn’t bring any with me, sorry!”
Nearing the end now, and we are treated to Black Shuck, with the swearing parts sung so high you wouldn’t know they were swearing, plus lots of flames as the flamethrowers work overtime. Hot and damp again.
Here comes Dan again, throwing himself into the intro to Get Your Hands Off My Woman, so I have to give him a wee scream of encouragement. Well, I promised my sister. I have to admit, Dan has a pretty nifty line in guitar humping and general pelvic thrusting too – I fully approve of THAT! More editing of the swearing parts – instead of Motherfucker we get Melonfarmer, and coconut replaces that word (which I only yell when I’m driving). However, the crowd just sing the original version, leaving Justin to sing whatever vaguely rhyming stuff he wants. At the end of the song, he tells us that it’s the only time we’ll hear the clean version of the song, as he’s staying on for a holiday in Dubai and doesn’t want to be locked up. He tries to get the crowd to sing Melonfarmer, but they just roar Motherfucker back at him. Classic.
And onto the final song of the evening, the towering Love on The Rocks. The thudding guitar makes me want to hump someone (seriously) but I restrain myself and just rock a wee bit, fully clothed. Arms wave from left to right during the chorus, and everything is great. As the climax approaches, I can see there’s no white tiger, but there is a bloody big crew member positioning himself at the edge of the stage. Justin gracefully plops down onto his shoulders, and is carried aloft along the front of the stage. And further along. All the way to the end, under the big video screen and through the security barrier. Into the crowd.
I have another *thud* moment when I realise that Justin Hawkins is directly in front of me. Ok, so he’s about eight feet in the air, but he’s within touching distance. As rabid fans reach out to touch him and his guitar, security men grab them and fling them to one side – roughly. I decide I like my arms intact, so I content myself with running alongside him. He looked down, but I don’t think he saw me as the spotlight was full on him.
Justin is carried further into the crowd, then they come back past me, so I get another eyeful. I was such a happy wench. Back on the stage, Justin apologises for being a little stiff in his movements – he explains that he visited the water park that day and went down the 300 foot (or whatever, I was to much of a wuss to try it for myself) water slide and ended up with his trunks up the crack of his arse and wrapped around his bollocks. He didn’t actually say that, just mimed it.
He ends with an attempt at a headstand, falls over onto his bum, tries again and falls over again. The bass drum didn’t get busted this time however. Eventually he settles for spinning around on his arse as the wall of flame shoots up.
And that’s it. The band come forward and take a bow, sling everything they are carrying into the audience (Justin even throws his bottle of water to someone, wrapped with his headscarf) and wave, then walk off stage. And don’t come back.
With perfect timing, “Time of my Life” plays over the speakers, and a fantastic firework display begins. We watch for a while, before making our way to the car park to find our driver. We collapse sweaty and knackered onto his wipe-clean seats and are taken back to our hotel, where I phone my sister and describe the gig in detail.
The next morning, I am soooo stiff and have almost no voice. But, I am so happy that I couldn’t care less. Thanks lads for a fantastic evening – the most fun I’ve had whilst fully clothed in absolutely ages. It was well worth the million mile round trip. Can we do it again next year please?
With love and thanks