By Rebecca Martin
I became a fan of The Darkness in late 2004, too late to catch them on their U.S. tour. I’ve waited in vain since then to see them live. But now, in 2012, my patience has finally been rewarded. I traveled from South Carolina to New York City, Chicago, and Minneapolis with my St. Louis friends Andrea and Kim for one purpose: to see The fucking Darkness.
Crown Jewel Defense
I knew there were two opening bands on tour with TD, but I was determined to show, at most, polite disinterest as they were not the bands I came to see. It was an easy task with Crown Jewel Defense, the first opening band. While I’ll admit that the lead singer has long, pretty hair and was covered in glitter, my friends and I had long faces like children who had been dragged to church against their will. At one point, I remember thinking “Aargh! We still have to sit through one more band before we finally get to see The Darkness.” But my sentiments quickly changed once Foxy Shazam took the stage. More on that later.
In Chicago CJD singer Tyler’s mic went out and Andrea declared that it was the best they’d sounded yet. But by Minneapolis, they had grown on us and we tolerated them much more than we did in NYC; I even found myself singing along with a couple of their tunes. I have to admit that I was being less-than-fair to them in NYC. They showed a lot of courage in going out onstage to play songs at sold-out shows to audiences who are there to see someone else.
It’s safe to say that I’ve never seen anything like Foxy Shazam. All six members command the stage with a cohesive, united front of controlled, writhing, upbeat insanity, which is everything a good rock show should be. Eric Nally is the gymnastic, glittery leather-clad singer. Most reviewers have compared him to Freddie Mercury. While the flawless harmonies on their new album are certainly reminiscent of Queen’s best years, possibly a nod to the influences of producer Justin Hawkins, I found Nally’s stage energy more akin to James Brown. I haven’t seen any other singers who in the course of a 5-7 song setlist boogie and bebop with a mic stand, leap-frog onto the guitarist’s shoulders, fall to their knees, bounce right back up and somersault across the stage. Eric Nally does all of this. I envision him walking offstage afterwards and collapsing onto a nearby chair from all the energy he’s expended.
Potential hecklers be warned: don’t fuck with Eric while he’s onstage trying to do his thing. He’ll call you out then put you in your place, much to the delight of the rest of the audience. In Chicago, he told one such heckler “the difference between you and me is that you’re looking up and I’m looking down.” In other words “shut the fuck up and let me do my show.”
In Minneapolis, there seemed to be a lot more Foxy fans than at the other two gigs I attended. Once the band took the stage, the floor was crammed with drunk and/or sweaty bodies. At one point, guitarist Loren Turner crowd-surfed a bit. The crowd seemed to surge in two opposite directions: forward to catch and hold him or to the side to keep him from landing on your head. After three shows, I am officially hooked on Foxy.
The audience was kept sonically entertained with a decent mix of rock songs as we impatiently watched the roadies set up the stage. I distinctly remember hearing Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. But then suddenly the music got much louder as the appropriate choice of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” began to play. Maybe The Darkness has always played it, but it seemed especially suitable on their third date in their too-brief North American tour.
ABBA’s “Arrival” now began to play and everyone knew this was the moment before the moment we’d all been waiting for. The lights dimmed and the exhilarating roar of the audience greeted The Darkness as they came out, opening the show with “Black Shuck.” I got very emotional at this point and one or two tears may or may not have escaped each of my eyes. Have I mentioned I’ve been waiting for The Darkness for seven years?! I just couldn’t believe that I was finally seeing The Darkness. They were really there, right before my eyes, rocking their asses off. However, I pulled it together quickly…there was no fucking way I was missing one of my favorite bands playing one of my favorite songs from their catalogue.
From what I’ve observed in their live performances I’ve seen on DVDs, it never takes Justin very long to disrobe once he’s onstage. He made it through Black Shuck but then took off the vest of the costume he wore. Wonder Woman’s costume should be rebooted to look just like Americana rocker vest and trousers that Justin wore onstage for the first part of the performance. (Seriously, how can WW be expected to fight crime effectively in booty shorts and a tube top?)
After the New York gig, I got my picture taken with Frankie, Dan, and Justin. I asked Justin after the show to play Hazel Eyes in Minneapolis, since that show coincided with my birthday, but I got politely shot down as he teased, ‘I don’t think I’d be able to remember the words.’ Despite the fact that I knew he was joking, four varied emotional responses went through my head.
- (sarcasm) Oh yeah, you have a whopping catalogue of 50 songs; I can see how a person could forget lyrics to so many songs.
- (anger)That’s what you have fucking rehearsals for
- (pleading)But…I’ll make cue cards! I’ll SING the words to you!
- (guilt trip)The Sunday show is my birthday…you owe us; you never came back to tour One Way Ticket like you promised
I’m proud of myself for refraining from any of those comments. Anyone who knows me can verify that I don’t always possess that much self-control. After the Chicago and Minneapolis gigs, I’m even prouder of my restraint as making any of those comments would have made me feel bad, knowing what I know now.
In Chicago, about halfway through the show, Justin said “We’ve had some requests…play more songs from One Way Ticket. Who here has been to any of our other shows? [cue my friends screaming, then Justin points to us] This is for you [play Hazel eyes]
Time-Out Chicago’s review of the show said “Hawkins…led the band through the highlights of its two-album catalog (“Hazel Eyes” and “Giving It Up” were among the most electric).”
Hey, Justin, how ‘bout you let me plan the band’s set list for your promised U.S. summer tour. I seem to know what your other American fans want to hear. All joking aside, I was so shocked that they were actually playing the song, I couldn’t even sing along with the first verse. I just kept saying over and over again, “I don’t believe it!! They’re playing Hazel Eyes!”
In Minneapolis, Justin said “on our tour, most of the songs we play are from our first album; we haven’t played much from the second album.” I knew where this was heading, so I waited for an appropriate pause from Justin and shouted “Hazel Eyes.” Justin smiled down at me and said “this lady wants to hear Hazel Eyes.” Justin watched and listened to the crowd as they erupted into approving screams and applause. (I’d like to reiterate my earlier offer to plan your setlist for you.) He then smiled back at me and said “okay” as if to say “yeah, alright, I’ll play this song for you.” According to Kim, Justin kept looking over at me while singing the first verse, but I couldn’t tell because his hair was in his eyes and I was too busy singing along to notice anything but the words to Hazel Eyes. This whole “Hazel Eyes” situation tells me that The Darkness is a band that actually gives a shit about what their fans want, which gives them major points in my book. Because of his kindness to this particular fan, Justin Hawkins now occupies a very special place in my heart, making this, hands-down, the best birthday I’ve ever had.
In my travels for the three gigs, people asked me what brought me to the city in question. When I told them, some people got the clear look of judgment in their eyes. To people like that, I’d like to say the following: Don’t judge me for following a band that I love, that I’ve been a fan of for 7 years. We’ve all made our choices in life. You choose what to spend your money on. Mortgage, spouse, children, family pet, family vehicle, those are all ordinary things to me that everyone has. I’ve always known that I didn’t want an ordinary life: I didn’t want the exact same life that everyone else had. I wanted my life to stand out and count for something in my memory, the only one that counts. Rock and roll is my husband and my children. The bands I love are my mortgage and my SUV. Don’t fuck with me or my family or you’re going down.