Here we go again …
Dublin, 4th February 2006
So, here I am again, at the ninth Darkness gig of my gigging career (ok, so I started late), in Dublin’s fair city. This evens things up after previous tour dates in England, Wales and Scotland – I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland, and Dublin in particular, so I’m following my usual pattern of travelling to cool places to see The Darkness… and to coat another hotel bathroom in glitter.
Absolutely nothing wrong with that. The actions of a reasonable adult who should be allowed into the community without supervision.
After a slight missing ticket mishap, I was permitted in to see our lads open their European tour. And what a show it was! From the uber-sexy opening grind of ‘Knockers’ to the roaring finale of ‘Bald’ those boys rocked The Point Theatre to its foundations, off the quayside and into the river. And by coincidence, Justin was airborne for both of those tracks – something I was expecting due to a tip-off from Sixsister.
This show really has to be seen to be believed. I can describe it, but you really had to be there. For the price of a ticket (not mentioning flights, hotels, beer money, etc as it would make you cry) you can be rocked sideways, laugh your arse off and be squiggled senseless. Bargainous.
OK, so the stage set is new and different and in keeping with the whole Hell theme. The drums are on a platform shaped like the front of a hell train, and are backed with a pair of gigantic Devil horns. There is a sloping runway up each side of the stage, leading to a platform high up behind the drums.
Once JATL have stopped assaulting us, I leave my people-watching at the bar and take my seat. Fab position on the balcony, Dan’s side, second row. The growing crowd are occupied with lots of wonderful videos from my teenage years (and a bit of misty-eyed remembrance of my Morten Harket crush). These are followed by a Darkness video montage, accompanied by AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’. Whoever put this montage together has my undying love and the use of my car forever, as its fantastic (the montage, not the car). A brilliant mix of the best old and new video clips, with the vital Justin pelvic thrusts (*scream*) and bum wiggles (*thud*). If there is ever a live Darkness DVD released, this montage and the 2004 tour montage MUST be on it. Please?
And now for another treat: the next thing on the big screens is the band apparently in the back of a taxi. The taxi turns out to be a helicopter, which lands in the dark. The band get out and race across to what appears to be an outside toilet, but which apparently is the stage entrance to the Norwich UEA. Yup, its video footage of the band arriving for the Norwich warm-up gig the previous week, but a lot of the crowd here thinks it’s the band arriving NOW and give an enormous cheer.
The lights go down to a cheer, the stage is bathed in blue light (another cheer) and Abba’s ‘Arrival’ starts, so I have to phone the sister so she can share in the excitement and knee-trembling. As ‘Arrival’ ends, we see Ed scurrying into position behind the drums – cue big cheer from the crowd. He starts thumping out the beat to ‘Knockers’, then we are treated to a spotlit Richie (in rock god black leather trousers) on the high platform picking up the bass line. Very grindy, very sexy. Another huge cheer (are you surprised?).
The intro is extended a bit from the album version, as it gives Justin time to make his grand entrance. The sexiness factor goes through the roof (and dampness abounds) as the second spotlight flashes on to show Dan, on the other end of the high platform belting out the guitar part. As Dan and Richie come down the ramps to the stage, Justin takes to the air in the booby chariot and acknowledges the crowd with waves, kisses, wiggles and whatever else he can think of. In the break in the middle of the song, he says hello to the crowd, and asks for their opinions of the boob chariot. He asks for everyone to wiggle their boobies at him, but keep them clothed as this is a family show (ahem). As the beat thuds through the crowd, the nipples on the booby chariot flash in time, earning another deafening cheer.
As the song ends, Justin comes back down to earth and gracefully leaps out. He comes back to centre stage carrying the sitar, and shouts a big hello to the crowd. I get a closer look at his outfit – the strange hairy trousers and a sparkly white shirt (I really want to say blouse). Dan has sensibly got rid of his smart jacket but has kept his black Thin Lizzy t-shirt on. Pah.
The sitar means we are going to be treated to ‘One Way Ticket‘, which is quickly followed by ‘Is It Just Me’. The crowd get suitably involved, then erupts as ‘Growing on Me’ is played. Its great to see the band looking so happy and involved and generally glad to be doing what they do best. Justin is constantly wandering over to Richie’s side of the stage, and although we don’t know what he’s saying, it must be funny as Richie is constantly grinning and giggling. Jus doesn’t do as much wiggling behind Dan as I’ve seen at previous shows, but he wanders over to him a lot too. Let us in on the joke lads, please?
The show rocks on, with ‘Dinner Lady Arms’ and Givin’Up’ and Justin attempting to remove the sparkly shirt (blouse!) to show us his Beer Gut Of Fury – as usual he gets his hand stuck in the sleeve and has to go across to Stage Richie to have it pulled off by a member of the crew. The Beer Gut of Fury was frankly tiny, as were the moobs and love handles. Don’t believe what you read in the press, Justin is not porky, he probably doesn’t weigh any more than 12 stone – he just isn’t the wafer-thin waif he was previously. And from what I’ve seen from subsequent shows on the tour, the weight is dropping off him, so soon there won’t be a wobble left.
A weird change now. Next up is ‘Black Shuck’ then ‘Love on the Rocks’, both of which used to be played at the end of a gig and used to give me mixed feelings – joy because they are fab hard-rocking anthems and sadness because we were nearly at the end of the show. In the middle of ‘Black Shuck’, Richie shows off his guitar skills by making his bass make all sorts of weird screams and shrieks. I see what he means in the tour programme about going to the toilet before the show – its pure, brilliant “brown sound”. Of course, watching his black-leather clad trouserage and bass guitar in close-up on the big screen did wonders for certain ladies in the audience *insert angel smiley here*
We move on to the ‘Erection Section’ where anyone who came to the gig alone must rub up against someone in the audience. The piano is rolled out and Dan and Richie get a sit down to play acoustic guitar for ‘Love is Only a Feeling’. Cue the pretty blue and purple lights playing over the crowd, but still no falling leaves. This beauty is followed by ‘Seemed Like a Good Idea’ then Richie and Dan (and possibly Ed, I couldn’t see) leave Justin on stage with the piano. Justin plays and sings ‘Blind Man with only the piano for accompaniment and it is beautiful. I had my doubts as to whether this would work in their live set, with all of the lush strings and harmonies (and people either love it or hate it), but it works. Close-ups of Justin on the big screen suggests he is having a little difficulty keeping a serious straight face, but that’s ok. For the final chorus, Ed is hammering the drums and Dan and Richie are again up on the high platform. The lights come up and Dan and Richie come down onto the stage for a huge rock-opera type finish that raises goosebumps. Fabulous, and the huge cheer it earns is well-deserved.
An acoustic guitar on a stand is brought on for Richie, which he plays standing up for ‘Hazel Eyes’. I’d only ever heard this live once or twice, so I was interested to hear how it had improved as a live version. ‘Tis great, but you’d probably guessed that.
Cue a lot of prancing from Justin for ‘Get Your Hands Off my Woman’. Again, the crowd goes wild at this oldie, but they don’t seem to realise that their role is to scream “Motherfucker” as loud as possible when requested by Justin. Never mind. Maybe we should compile a gig guide so Darkness virgins know what is expected of them.
The piano is wheeled back on and we bop along to ‘Friday Night’, then a second keyboard is brought on for Richie. After yet more mucking about from Justin, we get ‘Girlfriend’ with twin keyboards, brass effects and Justin skipping around the stage, playing both his piano/keyboard and Richie’s. The crowd does its bit, rocking their arses off and clapping along. Good work.
The piano disappears again and Justin does yet more guitar chord twatting about (a bit of a theme here) before blasting out the opening riff to ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ which gets the biggest crowd response of the night. The track kicks off with fireworks and includes Justin’s guitar hump across the crowd, but no request from Justin for thumbs at the “everything is A-OK!!” Spot the people who’ve been to a show before – they are the ones there with the double thumbs without being asked. The crowd redeems itself by getting their hands in the air for the synchronised handclap at the end.
The band leaves the stage and the lights go down. As usual, the crowd sets up a chant until the boys come back on. As the lights come up, Justin is revealed perched on the high platform, playing demonic chords on his enormous organ. And looking mightily proud of said organ.
There has been a costume change – Justin is now in the black and white catsuit and Dan has changed into a green t-shirt with white Thin Lizzy logo. And away we go with ‘English Country Garden’ followed by ‘Bald’, the closing track. This was another track I had doubts about hearing live, but not to worry because it is terrific. Very dark, very heavy, very loud. Perfect. Justin tops his previous crowd-walks atop a roadie and crowd-tiger rides atop the white tiger by coming out on a harness to sail above the crowd whilst playing the guitar solo. He doesn’t just hang there though … this boy has been practising his backflips and looks very graceful in his harness. Its also possible to see he is enjoying himself enormously as the crowd wave and jump up towards him, but he is just out of reach. The track ends with enormous amounts of heavy drumming, fireworks and the devil horns bursting into flame.
The band come to the front of the stage and acknowledge the standing ovation they so richly deserve. There are minor scuffles in the crowd as fans fight over the bits and pieces the band throw down to them, then everyone disperses into the night.
An utterly amazing gig, as expected. Thanks a million lads.
Alexandra Palace, 7th February 2006
Some might say I’m mad, but this is my second Darkness gig in four days, and I’m over the top excited. Why? Because its my birthday and I’m doing one of my favourite things – seeing The Darkness live. I have my sister with me, and she is talking to me (just) after I went to the Dublin gig without her.
We had a quick drink at the bar, bought a programme each and perched in a corner to read and drool over the programme. Buy one, its great. Lots of yummy new pictures. We managed to locate Fee and I had a birthday hug and frope, and we swapped glitter and body fluids. We also met with Webbie, who was lurking by the merchandise stall. The question “are you Rob?” to someone with Robert embroidered on their shirt will go down as one of the daftest ever, but he didn’t seem to mind. He is a pocket-sized sweetie. With a boob obsession, but we knew that anyway (joke Rob!).
As this was a standing-only gig, we managed to get very close to the stage and had a brilliant view. We were standing Stage Dan at the sister’s request, directly under the track, so we got a very close look at the boobies as they sailed over our heads. We also got a fantastic view of Dan – no complaints there (especially as he was almost constantly at the front of the stage, with his foot up on the monitor). We also discovered that Dan looks very good in pink, as he changed into a pink Thin Lizzy t-shirt for the encore. Bless, the static made his hair stand on end, so he had a fuzzy hair halo for the final two tracks. Soooo cute.
The setlist was the same as at the Dublin show, but that’s ok. I didn’t get a Happy Birthday wish from the stage (*pfffffft*) but we did get a wink from Justin as he hung over our heads at the finale. What a view.
Brighton, 15th February 2006
Woo and yay, another gig. Probably my last for this tour, as the funds and my boss’ patience are both running out, but its been fab whilst it lasted. This gig’s memorable moments include finally meeting with a member of Sixsister and almost drowning Sue Whitehouse with my pint of cider.
A word to the wise – if you ever go to Brighton, beware of the one-way system which eats cars. After the trauma of actually finding the hotel, I wandered downstairs to meet my lovely Darklings Emilystrange and Willow and was almost flattened by their welcome (literally!).
The Brighton Centre is a good venue, in my opinion. Its not too big, so even the balcony seating feels very close to the stage … and the bar serves Strongbow on draught. I regretted that the next day, when the hangover arrived. The good thing about being sick in the shower is that it gets washed away very quickly, so it wasn’t too bad.
This gig echoes the previous two by being rock-your-arse-off-fantastic. Memorable moments include the very short trip in the boob chariot (as the ceiling wasn’t strong enough for Justin to do a circuit of the crowd, he just hung there), Justin throwing the sitar to the side of the stage during ‘One Way Ticket’ and the introduction of a beautiful sparkly red guitar. I couldn’t tell you what sort of guitar it was, as I’m not a guitar geek. However, it was gorgeous and I want it. Justin’s voice sounded fine to me, even though he was complaining that it was as ropey as a piece of old rope.
So … The Darkness are back and doing what they do best. If you get the chance to see them live, grab it with both hands as the show is fantastic. The stage set is great, the lighting is out of this world, the effects are dazzling and it goes without saying that the lads are on top form. The band seem very happy and look like they are enjoying themselves. There is a lot more on-stage interaction between the band members, but the flipside seems to be a lot less interaction with the crowd compared to previous tours. Justin didn’t seem to be giving the crowd as much stick as I’ve seen in the past, with the exception of threatening to have the bar closed during the Erection Section at Alexandra Palace, as far too many people were leaving to go to the bar (although he did ask someone to bring him a pint if they were going to the bar). He didn’t once tell off the seated section of the crowd for being seated, and he didn’t really complain about lack of reaction from the crowd. Very un-Justin-like behaviour.
Thanks a million boys, I definitely had the time of my life.