If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing more than once.
Splendid sentiments to take into a new Darkness tour, especially one as laden with nostalgia as this. For us and them, this celebration of Permission To Land was going to be imbued with all sorts of meanings and memories of different sorts and importances.
Small venues, back to where it all exploded – you know that’s how I love to see my bands. The Darkness do venues of any size brilliantly, but it’s a special thing to watch them play like this. The thrill of all senses being so intimately assaulted by crowd, band and speakers is a thing of sweetness and bruises. It’s real, immediate and utterly satisfying. Addictive.
We won’t dwell on the fact that a certain government agency came to inspect my other raison d’être, causing me to miss the first two days of the tour at 4 hours notice. No, of course we won’t, because I’m not bitter about that at all. I give most of my life to my job, so my job staying out of my life when necessary is a reasonable request, I thought, but no…
Oh well. It was fully three weeks more before I finally broke my tour duck. Brighton. I love the city, and I really like the venue, too. By then I was wound as tight as a watch spring, eager to shake off stresses and enjoy myself. That gig delivered. From the first sight of friends, to first note of Second Fiddle, to last note of Christmas Time. Every elf, tree, scarf, hat and tank top was savoured and delighted in. We were so close to the stage on the front row – close enough to touch the stage with ease on our side. (To undo shoelaces and tie them together, too, but obviously that would not have been the done thing. They don’t stand still long enough anyway. ) Making Out started the energy flowing, giving several nods back to 2003. After that, the 2 set format was ably explained – first, a ‘generic’ set, then PTL from start to finish, with Christmas Time as a seasonal round up. So, we enjoyed cowbells, the operatic Tollund Man masterpiece, the pulsating Street Spirit – something from every era and album. In the midst – The Horn. Pure classic Darkness – live, it has an even dirtier sound, and is more smirk-worthy than a smirky thing. Ace!
A short break, and the now legendary monologues. Each band member outlying part of PTL’s successes before reappearing, one by one. Frankie’s listing of awards deserves a medal for ‘most record achievements spoken in one breath without dying’. The words ‘One million, three hundred thousand’ and ‘IT. FELT. GREAT. And how do I know?’ are mantras for a Darkling world.
Dan’s knee slide. Justin’s headstand. LIOAF’s atmospheric Swan poses. All part of the show… I was impressed with how little crud Dan ended up with on the knees of his white trousers.
The absolute and undisputed crowned set piece of all the shows, though, was Ed’s drum solo. It was good to see the spotlight on Ed, as he upped the solo stakes to new heights. Amazing what a difference a triangle and a gong can make to anyone’s day!
Feeling much more alive and like myself after that, there was the small matter of a wait until Northampton the following Saturday. The promise of that and meeting up with more favourite fans, American and English, saw me through. The Roadmenders is another great venue with clean toilets, plus finger print recognition systems for the cloakroom. Crikey.
The noticeable thing was the crowd silences between songs – that’s unusual. During – that was pretty normal, though TD worked harder for it.
Beyond that, back home for Norwich and Lowestoft x 2. Norwich is always a great gig to be at, with so many home fans. More friends, more thrills to sound and light. A camera that went where it shouldn’t to take pictures of… well, to be fair, it’s not easy to tell. The details are missing. All I can say is that it doesn’t smell too bad and the poor thing is still working.
Lowestoft was very interesting. The brand new venue was rather lovely, we even sat on the floor in the bar because it was so clean. The first night seemed to be locals come to see the sons of the East, the second had more Darklings, but both were awesome gigs. They’ll be legendary. The first was HOT. Sweat did drip off the ceiling. It dripped off everywhere. We had Justin hanging off the lighting rig (an unknown and untested quantity) – he must have been missing balconies to dive off on this tour. It rocked the roof nearly off, for a night that was memorable. We must have looked sights when we left – sandblasted and coated in grit by beach and wind before, cooked, basted in sweat, then rained on. I’m surprised the taxi home didn’t drive past us. Night two had more clement weather, and fans, and opened windows. It was no less rocking than the first, just cooler, and more of an end of term party feel. The boys’ delight to be home at last was palpable. The crowd’s appreciation matched it. Justin’s wedging the mike in the rig and having to climb to rescue it was one of those gloriously silly TD moments that seemed so inevitable and so right it could have been choreographed especially.
The tour ended there, on a singing of a real festive note – not November, like last time, but truly in season for the first in a long time. Drunk on riffs, high on notes, blissed on rhythm is where it got left. Memories and friendships were forged and tempered in the hothouse of crowds. Is that what it should be? How, truly, could it not be.
These are my impressions.
There are some things that were on people’s lips during the tour. During some gigs, cameras were not allowed. Some, they were, but no videoing. We were told no phones at Northampton but then a few songs into TD’s set, security ordered us to put cameras away. Lowestoft first night, told whilst in the queue to put cameras in our cars or they would be taken off us. Car unavailable… and the implication was ‘and not given back or looked after.’ Mine went in my hat then pocket then cloakroom. Second night, cameras allowed.
I have no problem with Justin’s wish not to be videoed, for all the reasons he gave. I applaud that, and back it wholeheartedly. I DO wish that the rules had been applied consistently from/by venue to venue, as we didn’t know where we stood each night. Advance warning by twitter would have been handy, in hindsight, I suppose, but I’ve only just thought of that.
Justin’s rants were pretty well discussed and it didn’t add to the pleasure of the gigs for some who were there. (Nor for some not present, but I’m not keen on that. Unless you were there, the context is missing and it’s impossible to truly know.) For some, it made no difference. For me – we were not in Justin’s shoes at those moments – he was not an idol, angel, saint, sinner, pariah any more than we ever are. Justin would not be Justin if he didn’t say something about what he thought, however it may come across. He’s been opening his mouth for years and causing ripples. I’d rather have that than an anodyne crowd pleaser with honeyed tones and lack of passion, whether I think he’s right/wrong/out of order/bang on.
At the end of a long tour, weeks on the road and shows nearly every night, let’s hope that a good break was had by band and crew. 2014 now stretches out before us. Where will it take us next? Dark places? Oh, GOOD.