Review by ‘Love on The Rocks’
Seven years is a very long time to wait. It’s long enough to go through that cycle of fondly reminiscing, to briefly forgetting, then to coming back and wondering… Can something really still be as good seven years later?
It was the big question that stuck in my mind when I went to see The Darkness at the Edinburgh HMV Picturehouse on the 9th of November. The first time I’d seen The Darkness was back in 2004 at Brixton Academy, on their Elf Hazard Tour. I didn’t realise that first time would be the last for a very long time, and have since mourned not having caught them before the band’s break-up. That night back in 2004 was hands down the most fun I’d had at a gig, ever. I was a little worried that I’d be disappointed, that it wouldn’t live up to the incredible memory I have of being 17 years old, excited beyond belief, leaping around and squealing at having touched Justin’s leg during the ‘Love On The Rocks’ walkabout. Could it still be that good?
However, videos and reviews from the band’s summer gigs had my hopes up and I was already buzzing like an excited teen again as I bustled into the Picturehouse. I’d never been to the Picturehouse before and was quite surprised by how small it seemed, however this did please me as it meant that it was very easy to get near the front (especially considering we were pretty early). It seemed like a fairly nice venue.
Crown Jewel Defense were the opening support. I’m sure they’re lovely lads, but they weren’t quite my cup of tea though my gig partner/the boyfriend seemed to like them more than I did. I did have to give props to the lead singer for what looked like a custom-made t-shirt with ‘Fly Like a G6’ scrawled on it, which did make me chuckle.
Foxy Shazam were up next and I was incredibly excited about this. I’d been recommended Foxy Shazam by another Darkling so had looked them up and had promptly fallen in love. They opened with ‘Oh Lord’, which is one of my favourites so I was happily bouncing around, screaming along to the lyrics. On my own, so it seems. I was a little disappointed that the crowd where I was, on Dan’s side of the stage, took some time to warm up to Foxy. However, Foxy blasted through their set which was, regrettably, too short for my liking, and I’m sure that they had won over most- if not all- of the crowd by the end. Highlights were Eric’s head-stand and Sky, the keyboardist, seeming to keyboard-crowd-surf with his instrument at one point. I don’t know how it was quite humanly possible but was quite a spectacle. I loved every minute. Once they were off stage, I asked my gig companion what they thought and the reply was “They’re fantastic, but the lead singer’s insane isn’t he? I’m glad there’s a barrier between us…”
Then there was that moment- the waiting game. You could feel a change in the air as the crowd started to shift and get restless. Everyone knew what was coming next. It’s at this point that I must thank the lovely tall lad who let me stand in front of him so I could see, thus placing me on the barrier, which I remained clamped onto like a limpet for the rest of the gig. Thank you, Tall Lad – you helped make the gig that bit more awesome for me.
I’m sure every Darkling out there knows that moment, the one when you know you’re in for one hell of a night. It’s when the first notes of ABBA’s ‘Arrival’ start trickling out of the speakers, and the lights go down. Your tummy flips, your heart skips a beat then starts pounding, and you can’t help but bounce in your spot a little bit as you know exactly what’s going to happen next.
After their grand entrance, the band launched straight into ‘Black Shuck’, which had the crowd going veritably wild. Although an excellent opener, I’ll admit that I felt a twinge of regret that we weren’t getting the classic ‘Bareback’ to launch us into the gig. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in terms of set list since I hadn’t read anything about the Liverpool gig the night before, but think it was very well arranged with a good ‘greatest hits’ feeling about it while giving us a taste of what more was to come in terms of The Darkness in 2011/2012. All of ‘Permission to Land’ was played, as well as ‘One Way Ticket’ and ‘Is It Just Me?’ from the band’s second album. I would have loved it if we’d had more of the B-sides other than just ‘Best of Me’ and ‘Bareback’ (which made an appearance during the encore), since although they are two cracking tunes, The Darkness are one of those bands with an excellent array of B-sides (plus I’ve always wanted to hear ‘Out of My Hands’ live).
One great unexpected surprise was the acoustic version of ‘Holding My Own’. I was genuinely delighted when the rest of the band cleared off and Justin struck up the familiar chords. It worked really well as an acoustic piece and Justin, unsurprisingly, did fantastically holding the stage by himself. It was genuinely a beautiful moment. This was topped off by Dan peering out from the wings at one point and trying to encourage the crowd to get their hands in the air- hilarious
The new material was truly excellent. I’d heard videos of ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us’, ‘Concrete’ and ‘Cannonball’ from the summer gigs and was already a great fan of the songs, so it was great to hear them being played live. There really is some stunning guitar work going on in all three songs, and it’ll be interesting to hear studio versions of them hopefully in the not-too-distant future. The newer addition being debuted, ‘Out of This World’/’Can’t Believe It’s Not Love We’re Making’ (there seems to be a little dispute over the actual title of the song at the moment), is just a classic Darkness track- very catchy, excellent guitar work, fantastic vocals, something you can jump around to and that will be stuck in your head for days after hearing it. It’s a real corker, so look out for that one!
The encore was solid, though it did feel strange having ‘Bareback’ so late on in the set- however glad it was still included! I loved their cover of Queen’s ‘Tie Your Mother Down’. I got the distinct feeling that they were really having fun with it, and you can’t help but grin and sing along when you can tell that the people rocking on stage are having the time of their lives too. It just reminded me so much of what I’d missed about music when The Darkness were ‘off the scene’, as such- I missed having fun. I missed hearing music that made me grin like a loony and want to sing along to it, regardless of the fact that I’d never, ever be able to reach those top notes like Justin can.
The night closed in the traditional manner with ‘Love On The Rocks’ (a personal favourite) and Justin’s walkabout. Though I’d been whisked back to my teenage days, this time I did not rush to touch his leg (although amongst his many costume changes, Justin seemed to have whipped out a classic pink-and-white number that may well have been the one teenage me touched back in the day). Through the deafening screams, you could tell that no-one in the venue wanted the night to end and yet that everyone had had a mind-blowing night of rock. This was how it should be done.
As I left the venue, ears ringing, grinning from ear to ear, it felt so good to be able to say “They’re BACK!”
Video of Holding My Own – there are other videos on the same channel, from that gig.