Some UK Inches – Between A Dry Ice Machine and a Foggy Place

So… whole (a bit) tour recovery took a bit longer than a weekend, thank you to sinuses/cold/head/ache/work. While it’s not hot off the press,  I can look back and ponder, with a smile.

Newcastle… 8 years and 1 day since my first ever TD gig. The first of my tour dates,  it was easy to be excited and easy for it to be a great gig in my eyes just because – but it wasn’t just due to that. The place really was jumping, with an electric feel in the air. Expectations were running high for the whole tour. Fans either knew what the old standards were, or had heard about them in hushed terms of legend from others. Like I said before in another post, there was hell of a lot of reconnection going on, and now a tide of affection and support building up behind The Darkness.

Crown Jewel Defense went down pretty well – it must be interesting to be first on out of 3 – and were better than many a support band I’ve seen in my time. I approve of glitter liberally applied, too.  Then came something that I’d waited quite some time for  – Foxy Shazam. Heard about, listened to, tried to see once but was too late. WELL. I’m not sure I’m not still wondering ‘what the FUCK was that?’ but I can say it was bloody amazingly fantastic. They’re getting their own review. All I can say here is go and find out about them, now. Hurry. Especially if you’re in America and have tickets for February.

The Darkness. Oh yes. Back.  Boys, Town, In, Are, Arrival.  I don’t think anyone was left in any doubt about that. Uplifted and rocked as well. Every single older song was greeted with glee. Holding My Own was a real revelation, a Justin solo acoustic, beautifully done. Quite a mesmerising moment. Might well have been poignant too, if it had had completely different lyrics :D. Dan’s arm waving from the back of the stage wouldn’t have helped a straight face, either. Street Spirit – YAAAY! This was the first thing, early in 2003, that connected the voice and the name ‘The Darkness’ in my head when I heard it on the radio. It was a real joy to hear it live just for that reason! Loved Christmas Time’s snow….

A good many people had heard Cannonball, Concrete and Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us before, thanks to youtube, but live, they’re something else. They’re all pure Darkness, but differently. Cannonball is a hard and..umm… ballsy explosion, Concrete a catchy rock earworm, and NGSU is TD’s best poprock with sharp little edges.  Those three have superb trademark Justin vocals, high and crystal clear. Can’t Believe It’s Not Love is a marvellously swingy, singalong gift in notes that you or I can manage without destroying our own balls or ovaries. Versatile voice goes hand in hand with varied songwriting, more so than ever before.  New and old mixed seamlessly, I think – although I had seen them before and was pretty used to the new ones already. A mark of song excellence – just typing this has created 4 earworms all at once and it’s making thinking very hard!

This was a TD gig at tour greatness. It had everything. Excitement, fun, nostalgia,  future, brilliance,  rock, losing band in dry ice, laughter and sweat.  Next…

Next was Cambridge, a whole lot colder and foggier.  Never been so glad to see the end of the journeys there and back!  The inbetween was worth the scary driving bits, though, of course. The Cambridge crowd took longer to get going. Perhaps because it was bloody cold in there. The barrier was so cold I yelped when I leant on it! I don’t think it really truly rocked until Justin whipped the crowd up, though Foxy Shazam made the place buzz beforehand.  By the end of a cracking set,  they were eating out of his hand and making the most ridiculous noises at his merest whim.  More ridiculous than normally happens, I mean.  Ok.  I knew Newcastle was never going to be a fluke, but it has been confirmed.  Slick as a greased parrot, they are GOOD at what they do, and yar boo bollocks to anyone who says otherwise.

UEA. No fog, ten minutes down the road, bliss.  Home gig, so this one is ace whatever happens, it always is. Fantastic atmosphere in the smallest venue of the tour, I think. CJD – no one will ever forget those shorts. Foxy Shazam – blew me away again.  Lots of name checking friends, wondering where Dad’s gone, happy crowd, happy band. First time, also, that I noticed that Justin stuck plecs to his chest with own sweat to use later.  In this Christmas Time, the snow fell straight on to the crowd,  which after the last two gigs as a bit of a surprise. 2 seconds into the song and the stuff is in my hair, mouth, boots, socks, jeans pocket and  undies.  No mean feat, that last one, they’re well protected, but there it was when I got ready for bed.  This gig was my favourite so far. It just felt so damn right and that everything had fallen into place for a perfect night.

Next night – Hammersmith. Mad rush, getting changed into jeans still discharging snow (am sure they didn’t need a machine any more, just shake the entire front row from UEA), getting the train and tube and makeup together.  And lo, arrived at the front just as CJD got into their stride, causing a young lady of my acquaintance to raise a very interested eyebrow. It’s  the last night of the UK mainland tour tonight. Great crowd from the off tonight, bouncing off the walls and as excited as UEA and Newcastle. Me too, as there were old friends there, including the most fabulous Laurie, who after long years had finally ended up in the same place as me. YAAY! Foxy Shazam come on and hit the ground running and rolling. They’re not a stationary band, but tonight was their last night as they weren’t going to Ireland, so they gave it their all. If you weren’t blown away, you might be made of brick! What a delight they are.

The Darkness. Again. Here they are, also giving it everything.  It IS the best of the lot I’ve seen, I’ve decided, though the UEA ones always have a special feel. Superb everythings, not a moment wasted or a note misplaced. Justin did misplace the microphone for a bit though – rushing up, opening mouth, singing… oh.  Sorry, Justin, still giggling at that one! Lord knows what it was doing on the drum riser – was it just after the headstand? Normal service was resumed with a grin. More snow ended up in my undies and elsewhere (even under my phone cover, phone in zipped up bag) but it was just FUN dancing in it.

Encore.  Bareback, Tie Your Mother Down, IBIATCL, LOTR. We know what to expect, some final mental partying before.. oh. Hang on just a fucking minute. That’s… that’s BRIAN MAY. Long time champion of  Lowestoft’s finest is ON STAGE. WITH GUITAR. I was wondering, after the 100 Club, when it would happen, and the rumours of something special for tonight had made me wonder even more – but the actual fact of it happening right there in front of me was something else, baby.  For three glorious songs, including one of his own,  TD became a 5 piece.  They truly looked like they were in the dream they later tweeted about.  What a moment. What a legendary gig. It’ll be spoken of in years to come as ‘the’ one, and not one person there on or off the stage will forget it.

With the exception of the epic Love On The Rocks, we were all done, standing in awe.

The Darkness deserve all the plaudits they got and will get for this tour. It can’t possibly be easy to come back after 5 years, playing with other great bands, and do what they’ve done. But to do it this way? It seemed so seamless. Effortless.  Confident. How did they do that? Justin (and Dr May) said to tell people that The Darkness are BACK.  And they were both right.

Go forth and Darkangelise!


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