Laurie’s U.S. Tour Diary – The Darkness, Foxy Shazam, Crown Jewel Defense (Pt 2)

Day 1 – February  18, Las Vegas, NV, House of Blues

Welcome to the Sin-Sinniest City of them all, LAS VEGAS! On this tour with me are my Darklets, Rhyanne and Harrison, and friend Dori – you remember her from the NYC gig. We pulled into town the night before and Dori had flown in from New Jersey. Boy, were her arms tired!  *rimshot*

The day of the gig, Ree decides she wants to ride the New York New York roller coaster that is just across the street from us. After much debate, I finally agree to ride with her and off we go through the casino to find the rollercoaster. I don’t know how many OI readers have been to Vegas, but these casinos are mahoosive, like little money-grubbing cities. Finally, we find the coaster entrance near an arcade. We’re standing around trying to figure out where to buy tickets and such when Dori turns around and says “There’s Frankie!”

Yes, it was Mr. Poullain, who was waiting for Mr. Justin Hawkins. So once we chit chat with him for a bit, we decide to wait to say hi to Justin too. He arrives and asks if we saw his tweet about riding the coaster and Dori told him we were already there!  He was very nice and I gave him an “I heart moustaches” magnet I’d bought for him in the gift shop earlier, before we knew he’d be there. He liked it! So long story short, Ree and I rode in the rollercoaster two seats behind him. It was great fun, even though roller coasters are not my bag, baby!

Before we lined up, we saw Sky in line at Starbucks next door and we went to say hello as he waited for his green tea. Such a nice guy, he is!  Saw the other Foxy band members and CJD guys come in as we waited for the gig.

The gig itself was fantastic! Although we found out the hard way that if you want to jump the line to the front, you had to buy $25 of food or merch  from House of Blues and show the receipt.  Crown Jewel’s songs are slowly growing on me, and Foxy was phenomenal as always.

It was awesome to hear Hazel Eyes, which was added to the Chicago gig thanks to fan requests! I think Cannonball was dropped , but it was pretty much the same setlist as New York. I saw Vinny Paul from Pantera up in the VIP booth watching the show. All in all, the crowd was enthusiastic and it was a stellar performance! Justin’s new onstage habit is picking people from out of the crowd and complimenting their appearance, and there was a contingent from the UK whom Justin gave a shout to as well. Las Vegas loved the boys!

We said hello to them after the show and got some pics, and they all signed my beaded medallion. It was Ree’s first time meeting them, but Harrison missed out. Dan and Ed didn’t seem too happy that Ree couldn’t get in because it was an 18+ venue and she wasn’t 18. Justin finally got to see Dori’s fabulous catsuit and he loved it! He told her not to wash it. We said we’d see them in Phoenix and off we went the next day.  😉


Day 2 – February 19, Phoenix, Arizona, Celebrity Theatre

After traveling 6 hours (yes, we’re driving!) we reach Phoenix and check in. Lo and behold, there are other Darkness fans at the same hotel! We pulled in blasting “Bald” to get their attention and Harrison yells “Do you believe in a thing called love?!”  We said hello to some lovely British ladies in the hotel lobby and one of our hotel neighbors is also going to the gig. Turns out later that Justin pointed him out in the crowd as having awesome facial hair!

The Celebrity Theatre is different because it’s what they call “in the round,” meaning it’s a round stage. But tonight’s gig is halfway blocked off, so it’s what Justin dubs “The Semi-Circle of Power!”  It’s also quite odd that there is standing room in front of the stage and the performers are pretty much in your face if you’re lucky enough to be standing (which we were), but then there were seats behind the standing area so it must have been hard to see for the seated people immediately behind us.

I almost got tossed out because my camera was called “Professional” but after explaining that it’s not and I couldn’t return it to my car because we walked to the theatre, the security guys let me back in as long as I didn’t take video. So back to the front I go. The Crown Jewel guys are sounding better and better, and Foxy has an enthusiastic fan base here in the valley of the sun. My favorite part has to be when Sky keyboard surfs into the front rows and lets the fans pound the keys. The crowd is chanting “Foxy! Foxy! Foxy!” after they leave and I’m almost sure they’ll come back for an encore…no? Oh, okay.

The Darkness bounds onstage and the crowd noise is incredible!  At first, Justin was dubious about the stage and asked “Does this make my arse look big?”, because the circle went halfway around Dan’s side of the stage and his rear was in view.  Justin had great fun trying to see which side of the stage is louder during GYHOMW. The Semi-Circle of Power allows Dan to travel to the other side of the stage and solo a few times. During LOTRWNI Justin doesn’t get to do his walkabout because of the odd shape of the venue, so he opts for soloing down the middle corridor. I must say Phoenix was a brilliant gig and the crowd was up to 11!

Milled around after the show and again chatted with the guys from Foxy, CJD and TD. Harrison finally gets to meet TD!  It’s fun watching my kids meet them, as they’ve been subjected to their music for 8 years and now they’re old enough to like TD on their own.  Our new friends from the UK got to say hello as well (Sue, Liz and Terri and their other friend whose name escapes me – sorry!). We finally find someone with a silver Sharpie so Dori’s catsuit can be signed by the band. Since it was freezing cold out, we didn’t hang around long and then it was time to head back and rest up for L.A.


Day 3 – Los Angeles, California – House of Blues, Sunset Strip

L.A. is lovely this time of year, and as we enjoy dinner at HOB before the show (to get our fast passes), we hear sound check going on. Sweet!

Oh My Gee! So many people are here! My friend Julie, who I did a similar tour with in the UK in 2006, is here!  And our friend Hannah too, who I haven’t seen in a few years!  Another friend also arrives later and we ended up chatting with her and her son too. Good times! Sky and Daisy from Foxy come over to say hello to us – such nice guys!!

As for the gig, well….the band was rockin’ but let’s just say that I thought the some of the crowd was not as enthusiastic as Phoenix or even Vegas or New York. Dan’s guitar wasn’t working right during one song and the band played on while he switched out guitars, and Justin says “Now you know what we would sound like without Dan on guitar – we would SUCK!” Billy Duffy from the Cult was in the audience somewhere, Justin announced, and he said he was nervous because Billy was a hero of his. But on the upside, everyone who had never seen them before and those of us who HAD seen them before were happy campers with the band and the performance, and that’s what matters.    Cheers for rocking the House of Blues!

They shoo us out fairly soon after the gig and after chatting with the CJD boys again, we decide to go for an early breakfast. This traveling stuff is quite wearying.  After stopping at the famous Mel’s Diner on Sunset, it’s time to hit the hay – but not before we see Loren from Foxy outside the HOB and we say “HI LOREN!”  J


Day 4 – Travel time!

But not after first having lunch at the famed Barney’s Beanery, which was a favorite spot of Marilyn Monroe, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, etc. After a quick stop at the Guitar Center on Sunset, we then go to the L.A. Fashion District to look at fabrics. Dori HAS to buy some purple leopard and red zebra print spandex!  The plan had been to head back to San Diego and drop the kids off, but there’s not enough time and I have two extra tickets… off we all go to San Francisco!


Day 5 – February 21, The Fillmore, San Francisco

Well I must say this: After all the driving we’ve done, I respect bands so much more. Sometimes as fans, we forget all the effort they make traveling this gigantic land of ours by bus, then have to do a kick ass show, stay out late after the show meeting fans, unwinding, and then get up at ungodly hours like 5 am and do it all over again. My hat is off to CJD, Foxy and TD!

Thank God there’s no fast pass this time! We see the TD guys as they go into the venue and Justin pops back to say a quick hello and to make sure Dori hasn’t washed her catsuit! LOL!  We make friends with the tall guy standing in front of us, and Liz from the UK joins us as we wait. We’re worried we won’t see Sky before the show – which has almost become a ritual! – when he, Alex and Daisy walk by and say hi. J  And of course, our new CJD friends Taylor, Nick and Steve also say hello. Taylor tells us they have an upcoming UK headlining tour  J  Whoo hoo!

Well, the vibe in the Fillmore is electric! I tell Ree that LED ZEPPELIN played there and she wasn’t really that impressed. Teenagers! This is where it all happened…Led Zep, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane….it boggles the mind how much rich musical history is in that building. Luckily the stage is massive and has a huge barrier and we have no problem getting front row. We also discover through TD’s FB page that a special Fillmore poster has been created for the band (more on that later!)  The picture was awesome!

You know it’s special when the crowd is getting worked up just singing along to the pre-show songs (and by the way guys, thanks for getting me hooked on “Guitar” by Prince!) and it’s even more exciting when TD tweet about how loud we are singing along to “Just What I Needed” by The Cars  J  Soon, CJD come on and rock the house! It’s even better when Taylor announces that it’s as close to a hometown gig as they’re going to get, since he’s from nearby Modesto, and the crowd lovingly embraces them from there.

There are some people that are there only to see Foxy Shazam, and they were not disappointed! What can I say about this band that hasn’t been said already, except that they are master showmen and musicians and they totally killed it! At the end, Foxy has left the crowd in awe and clamoring for more just like in Phoenix. WOW!  Later on, Justin has asked the crowd to give it up for CJD and Foxy and backstage, they heard everyone chanting “Foxy! Foxy! Foxy!”   The Darkness was happy to hear that, especially Justin, because Foxy is his favorite band.

When TD comes onstage, the crowd explodes and TD feeds off our energy.  Justin points out our tall friend from the line outside as lovingly protecting his woman from the people behind them (which was really sweet!) and he dedicates GYHOMW to them.  As the show progresses, a fine cloudlike haze has settled over the crowd and I’m quite sure it wasn’t from the dry ice machine! Justin remarks that he knows that we’ve been smoking Mary Jane’s Laughing Tobacco  😉  I can’t even point out highlights as it seemed every song was a highlight and it was over before we knew it. I do manage to catch Ed’s drumstick as it bounced off Harrison, but luckily it was gently tossed our way and didn’t cause any damage  😉  Some guy even offered me $10 for it, but I said no way! As Harrison and I leave to find Dori and Ree on the other side of the stage, happy concert-goers are singing and dancing along with “I Had The Time of My Life.”  I love when that happens!

As we exit the best gig we’ve been to yet, the Fillmore hands everyone a print of said Fillmore poster. I’m having that framed!  We hang out to say our goodbyes to CJD (and met Taylor’s mom and Grandma, how nice!) and then we finally get to say our goodbyes and thanks to TD before we leave the tour.

The Darkness is very thankful for the fans who have stuck around, as well as the new fans they are winning over.  It’s really nice when they remark that they will miss seeing us in the front row and they don’t know what they’ll do without us the rest of the tour  J  We say we’ll see them somewhere here in May, and we have all our memorabilia and memories to carry us through til then.

My favorite onstage moments for all the gigs is the way the entire band is smiling, laughing and enjoying each other as a band again. Dan literally bounces as well as headbangs through a show, and of course Justin is bouncing, leaping, tossing plecs, posing, diving into crowds….anything we want to him do, he does. It’s pure unadulterated HAPPINESS making its presence known on this tour, as well as the show I went to in London. Another highlight for me is when Justin sings “Holding my Own” acoustically, and Dan is impishly in the background making the crowd do a hand wave along with the ballad. Every time the crowd sings along with the songs, or when Justin is making us make the most ridiculous noises during LOTRWNI, the fun is always there – and that my friends, is why I love this band so much – aside from the fact that they all rock so hard it must hurt.

I truly do thank the band for resurrecting all this wonderful music filled with good times, and based on audience reaction to the new songs, we have so much more to look forward to in the future. I’m not sure if I’ll do another road trip like that, but who knows?   NOTHING’S GONNA STOP US NOW!  J




On Tour with The Darkness – Live Reviews

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.

Foxy Shazam

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 Darkness

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.

The Darkness, Foxy Shazam, Crown Jewel Defense – East Coast America

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The lovely Brandi Lukas has allowed us to share some of  her photos on OI – they’re from Boston, New York and Washington. Follow the link for them all.  Thanks, Brandi! She also has a blog where you can see more of her work.

Foxy Shazam – The Church of Rock and Roll

Foxy Shazam. What, you may say, is all that about? Well might you ask. For those who haven’t been baptised into this Church, settle back. Those that have, you’ll know all about the strangely off-sweetness of Foxy’s being.

You might have seen them supporting The Darkness during their UK tour last November, or have seen them moons ago at the Camden Barfly. I can bet  that wherever it was, you won’t forget it. There’s ALWAYS something happening, when they’re on stage. ALWAYS. A band that never stands still, never rests, never loses a chance to entertain. Eyes take time to rest on Skye playing keyboards with his feet, and you’ve missed Alex playing his trumpet whilst doing a one handed, thrusting crabstand. Look away for a second, and Eric is on shoulders, as if he’s apparated there. Photographers can’t keep up. Eric’s voice tears at your ears and psyche both as he delivers powerful, sometimes shatteringly high notes from a slender frame that seems too frail to contain such richness… but don’t be deceived. The man’s made of steel – hard, unforgiving, sharp, bright and flexible – especially where hecklers are concerned.

Given their well known association with Justin Hawkins (Eric and Justin have long been songwriting together, Justin produced this album, support slots on Darkness UK and USA tours), it’s tempting to look for another embryo Darkness. Forget that. Foxy Shazam have been around for a good long time. This is their 4th album and they have live experience that bands would sell their shoes for. Last year, the two bands complemented each other perfectly while contrasting starkly. Foxy Shazam are far darker than The Darkness in tone and presence. They have levels of sleaze and storytelling methods that would not suit TD.  To describe more fully, try hard rock disco (dickso?☺) 70’s frenzy with cool blues dirty trumpet under/overtones. It works equally well at whatever tempo, whatever emotional level.

This album, out a week ago, is all that. Start with the get down dirty title track and I Like It, move through pop twists to Last Chance at Love. I Wanna Be Yours and Wasted Feelings have hypnotic repetitions, vocal treatments and rhythms. Forever Together will give sweet chills with an easy, cool summery feel – but beware of this and the deceptively simple treatments given throughout. This is not music that trips happily through love and life. It digs far deeper than that. You’re never far from that dirty little edge of voice or instrument, crafted by men who know how. Power is seldom absent, whether it’s lyrical, vocal or instrumental. Foxy Shazam do indeed give a little enigma back to rock and roll, and a little enema is gifted, too – so it should be.

I want to see all this on stage, because I want to see/hear these songs with the raw passion of performance pulsing through. When you leave a gig with wide eyes and ‘What the FUCK was that?’ on your lips, you’ve seen something special. Had an epiphany, even. The Church’s services aren’t for the fainthearted or closed-minded, and I like it. A lot.

Foxy Shazam – out on USA tour with The Darkness starting 1st Feb in Toronto. See the tour dates page for more info, but move fast for tickets.

The Church of Rock and Roll is out now on iTunes, or see the band’s Facebook page for further info on album/tshirt/artwork bundles.