Months had passed since the last known sighting of either Stone Gods or Hot Leg. Years since the Mothership Darkness had crashed landed in a permanent-looking blaze. But on a night in June 2011, the once impossible became reality. Now that a little time has passed, the impact faded, and the tendency to scream has passed, the words to describe it might just flow. There is a lot I want to say, but I will try and keep it to the point!
It was a night that had been analysed and deconstructed a thousand times before the day had even dawned. What they’d play, wear, say, do… but really, did it matter? Surely all that was needed was for the faith to be rekindled? Waiting for that was tense.
Max Raptor as support were more than equal to the impatient Darkling crowd, and got it bouncing and eager. Far better than a lot of supports, they deserved their slot and are worth watching in the future. However, this Norwich crowd was only there for one thing. To celebrate the four men on stage – fans, friends, family. The necessary interval was interminable, and by that time, the God of Rock must have been knocked off his perch by prayers. The realisation hit that it was really really definitely going to happen. Deep intakes of breath – not just mine. It was an emotional moment, shared by a good many around me. So many people at this gig had supported the Hawkins boys through the last 5 years, on stage and off. Read Frankie’s book, seen Ed play with KFB. Once Arrival began, there were a few hastily stifled sniffles – not now, this is not the time – but the damn tune has set Darkling spines tingling for years, and tonight it has a special extra overtone.
There’s no huge fanfare arrival. Just Ed, then Dan, then Frankie assuming the position for Bareback, then Justin striding on to complete the lineup. The reception nearly lifted the roof, and that was only the very beginning. No one had started singing yet, and everyone was just savouring the excitement, on both sides of the barrier. Finally, the irrevocable step was taken into real Darkness. No more wondering about Justin’s voice, the boys’ chemistry, how it will sound. For the rest of our time in that hot, sweaty, perfect atmosphere, we got our answers. It was everything we hoped and more. Fast, hard rock served up with skill and aplomb. Guitars sang, bass and drums thundered, and Justin… well. I don’t think his voice has ever sounded so completely under his control. Note after perfect hard high note glittered like crystal and just kept coming. It all seemed so bloody easy and effortless, and it couldn’t have gone any better. The crowd lapped it up. All the old trademarks were there. Guitar playing behind head, Thin Lizzy Tshirt, bandanna, crowd banter, acrobatic vocals for the crowd to copy – it was all there. We’ve not had black confetti before, though, and it’s still coming out of my boots… Everything that nostalgia and expectation required was delivered.
The new songs were delivered with equal polish to eager ears. ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us’ is a very old song that’s not been heard live since 2002, so I understand, but it fit perfectly with the rest of the material. Appropriate, too. ‘Concrete’ was a grower, for me – perhaps I was listening too hard and went into a Darkling daze – I needed to hear that again. ‘Cannonball’, though, was an instant attention grabber with all the Darkness hooks latching onto brains. If these new ones are anything to go by, we’re all going to be rather stunned by the album. Out of breath and aurally blasted. Excellent! It all ended triumphantly with ‘Love on the Rocks’, crowd walk a given. Everything was bang on, like there hadn’t been a 5 year gap, nothing had been forgotten.
There were no signs of nerves from anyone. Here, in Norwich, they were sure of support, but it was more of a tsunami than a wave. How could it possibly get any better? HOW?
Well… actually, it could. Still astounded by how very good TD are (better than before, in my opinion) I went to London 3 days later. Max Raptor again giving great rock service and much appreciated by the crowd. This is a much bigger venue, with much more press exposure. No nerves for me this time, anyway, and I’m not sure there was any need to worry much on Sunday, either.
The set was the same, the crowd jampacked with moving anywhere difficult. Less rough than Sunday, though. Sunday’s gig was intimate and the atmosphere dripping with goodwill. This one isn’t as intimate, nor does it have the family feel, but everyone in that hall was rooting for the lads. It was less of a warmup gig than a tour show oddly separated from the rest of the dates. Warm WHAT up? Cold toes? The Darkness are on FIRE tonight and if it had gone on much longer there would have been no Shepherd’s Bush Empire left. This gig blew everyone away. Quite honestly, it was the best I’ve seen TD on stage. Lots of gigs I’ve been to have memories attached, little moments savoured, to make them special. But… what I saw on stage that night outdid everything. Tight, hard rocking band. The interaction, the sound, the lights, the naileddowndead execution of their music. The complete and utter joy of being there on stage together performing was plain to see, and that was worth every penny it itself. I listened hard to ‘Concrete’ and decided that it is actually a better song than ‘Cannonball’, which is catchier, and both are TD in the extreme.
I am a Darkling, it’s true. I saw them a lot back in the last day, and saw as much Hot Leg, Stone Gods and KFB as I could manage. I can’t write this without some bias. However, I am not going to say that they were brilliant just because it was them. I’m going to say it because they were bloody brilliant.
To The Darkness – I salute you.