Birmingham NEC, 19th February 2006
I nearly didn’t make it to this gig. Stood in the middle of Birmingham, freezing my scrattocks off, I was fearing the worst; that my chauffeur had gone AWOL on me.
Luckily for his general health, he turned up only an hour late (by this time my limbs were encased in solid ice), and by the end of the night I had forgiven him (well, he did pay for my t-shirt…)
We arrived on the venue floor just as Juliette and her band of merry Licks hit the stage. I’ll take this opportunity to express what a fantastic live band they are, and what a breathtaking frontwoman Juliette Lewis is. Not only a talented singer, but with boundless energy on the stage, her body rocking with the music. I’m not usually keen on skinny girls, but I must admit to having a bit of a crush on her…
I loved the fact that the spaces between acts were so short, so there wasn’t any time to get bored and/or narky. Same with the night before in Manchester, it was only a half hour wait after Juliette et al, with some classic rock videos for entertainment, whether laughing with or at them. It was glorious to hear once again the magnificent ‘Arrival’ softly curling through the crowd, as we all gazed upwards in anticipation. There was a beautiful moment when I looked around and everyone’s eyes were fixed on the stage, wide smiles across their faces, genuinely elated and safe in the knowledge that they were about to have a shit load of fun watching one of the best live acts on the planet.
You just couldn’t fault The Darkness that night… we made a point of standing on Richie’s side, and had decided early on to give him a warm welcome home. Not once did I think, “this is weird without Frankie…”; quite the opposite. Richie fits so incredibly well in the band, there’s no doubt and no denying it. There’s a constant air of “nice bloke” about him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t rock out hardcore style with the best of them. He’s got energy, aggression, and he loves what he does. You just know that he’s genuinely happy to be there, to entertain you as best he can. And, naturally, we gave our all in return, if in the slightly more subtle way that the NEC crowd conducts itself.
Justin (who’s looking better with a bit of meat on him), pranced, danced, and shook his ample arse as generously as ever, melting some stunned faces with the use of Philip the Ibanez, prompting us to sing along (perhaps to compensate for the fact that his throat felt “as rough as a bear shit rolled in fish hooks”). In fact, we were close to singing the whole of ‘Growing On Me’ without him until we were stopped and treated to the original (and best) version. Dan and Ed carried themselves with the quiet dignity we’ve grown to know and love… that is, until Justin made a spectacle of young Edwin and he was forced to shy away from our screams of admiration. Bless his cottons. He’s improved so much; after all the stresses of his band almost falling to pieces, having a ray of sunlight (namely Richard Edwards) entering the band seems to have given him some extra confidence, and he’s got a lot more power behind his unique drumming style. You’ve just gotta love ‘im.
I didn’t see much of the younger Master Hawkins on the Sunday, but I was more on his side the night before – and how on earth does he make such violent head banging look so graceful? You can’t say he’s not ridiculously talented, dextrous with his weapon, and with such lovely hair to boot.
The highlight had to be ‘Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time’, with some surprisingly gorgeous backing singing from Richie and Dan (sitting on stools in a rock ‘n’ roll Westlife style – but this can be forgiven), and Justin on piano, with tiny flames dotted about an otherwise shadowed crowd creating a truly outstanding ambiance.
That said, all the songs from ‘One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back’ and the equally outstanding ‘Permission To Land’ were played with all the vibrant intensity we’ve come to expect, which left me and thousands of others with a cathartic sense of satisfaction. After it all, I felt nice and warm skipping back to the car at silly o’clock on an eventful Sunday night.
Take heart, lads; some of us get it.