A last-minute look in Classic Rock magazine for bands on tour and hey presto here we are in Southend to watch the outstanding and outlandish ‘The Darkness’. They have a short UK tour to promote their latest album ‘Motorheart’ and boy were they bloody good. The entire set was a roller coaster of fun and frolics and packed with enough Rock ‘n’ Roll anthems for everyone – I’ve still got a grin on my face from the show, it was epic.
Steve Harris’s British Lion were supposed to be support but pulled out to be replaced by Massive Wagons, something contractual apparently. However, watching the Wagons have to clear away their own kit after their short 30 minute set I’m guessing Steve didn’t fancy any of that thank you !! 😊😊.
There was plenty of standing room, a decent sized crowd of all ages, I’m probably guessing at 65% capacity, and seating probably 85% full. Mind you as Justin quite rightly pointed out it’s been a while and a lot of punters are still very wary of going out to crowded places, he thanked us accordingly.
A stripped-down set with an arc of horizontal lights across the stage, dalek style lights on the drum raiser for Rufus and 4 Laney speakers. Simple things that don’t distract the audience from the colourful and flamboyant Justin who more than makes up for drab backdrop. It was somewhat different to the 8 Marshall speaker stack that Massive Wagons used.
At 21:00 the bagpipes start wailing as the band comes on and launches into a new song ‘Welcome Tae Glasgae’ promptly followed up by crowd favourites ‘One Way Ticket’ and ‘Growing On Me’.
Justin starts the show in a black cowboy style shirt and the biggest black slick flares I’ve seen since the 70’s. Frankie wears a black polo neck and black leather jacket and trousers throughout the 1 hour 45-minute set. He must have been sweating under there! Dan also all in black with a biker jacket, Thin Lizzy t-shirt and skinny jeans. Rufus in shorts and t-shirt was buried behind the drum kit and hard to see, until his costume change but more of that later.
A very good stomping new song ‘It’s Love, Jim’ sees Justin top off proudly showing off his physique and countless tattoos. There can’t be any singers with Lowestoft (a tribute to their home town) proudly tattooed on their belly! For most of the subsequent set Dan starts the monster riffs and Justin dons the guitar halfway through for yet another stunning solo. They all work wonderfully as a unit and Frankie stays in the shadows looking cool for most of the time! Now that said in my eyes Justin is sort of morphing into Steve Tyler and I think Frankie and Richard Ayoade must have been separated at birth 😊.
Set List (Some songs are missing – click on link to view the video in 4k)
- Welcome Tae Glasgae (Motorheart, 2021)
- One Way Ticket (One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back, 2005)
- Growing on Me (Permission to Land, 2003)
- Motorheart (Motorheart, 2021)
- It’s Love, Jim (Motorheart, 2021)
- Black Shuck (Permission to Land, 2003)
- The Power and the Glory of Love (Motorheart, 2021)
- Solid Gold (Pinewood Smile, 2017)
- Friday Night (Permission to Land, 2003)
- Love Is Only a Feeling (Permission to Land, 2003)
- Barbarian (Last of Our Kind, 2015)
- Get Your Hands Off My Woman (Permission to Land, 2003)
- I Believe in a Thing Called Love (Permission to Land, 2003)
14. Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) (Permission to Land, 2003)
There was plenty of banter with the crowd stage right with people shouting requests and Justin checking the set list to see where the song was – “Yeah, it’s the next one good call!” to Black Shuck. Justin set a rod for his own back as they kept shouting Black Shuck for every song 😊. Justin kept engaging with the crowd, he really is a great frontman. Very comfortable in his own skin, an extremely talented musician, ticks every cliched box for Rock Star looks and moves and does it all with the biggest smile on his face – you can tell he just loves every moment of it. There’s plenty of songs to show off his flawless falsetto, a couple of ballads and the rest is pure RnR genius.
Justin Hawkins changes to one of his trademark jumpsuits – this time a silver glittering tasselled number with a lions mane down the back, characteristic and unforgettable. A lot of ohh/ahh noise greets the (3 times) spoken word introduction to one of my favourites ‘Barbarian’ – check out the video link – we were having fun! The fun continued with him messing about in between songs where he starts playing a couple of Oasis riffs then a quick audience sing along to ‘Wonderwall’ – bizarre. More sing-a-longs to ‘Solid Gold’ – you know all the rude words (tee hee)
The rude version of ‘Get Your ‘fucking’ Hands Off My Woman’ sets up the final falsetto song ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ of the show, and it’s a while till they re-emerge for the encore. The delay wasn’t to milk the applause as they all turn up fully dressed for the final song (it’s kinda near Xmas after all) ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bell’s End)’. Justin in a glittery red catsuit and Santa hat; Rufus as a Xmas tree (don’t know how he even got on his drum seat); Frankie as some fat fairy and Dan being the sensible one in a Marshall Xmas jumper.
At the end the band throw plectrums to people they picked out (inc. yours truly) and trundle off after yet another wonderous performance. So, there you have it, The Darkness deliver incredibly catchy ass songs with wonderful riffs and leave grins on everyone’s faces. A masterclass from a tight and highly professional band, no one leaves disappointed. I will be back!
Marko – 22 November 2021
Must also mention Massive Wagons. I knew little about them but a bit of Googling tells me that this 5-piece from Lancaster have 5 studio albums and were formed in 2009. They did a power packed 30-minute set with the front man reminding me of Angry Anderson such was his pent-up energy. Alas the noise levels were too high for my liking and I could barely make out what ‘Baz’ Mills the singer was saying, let alone singing. The songs though were good enough for me to check this band out. Not totally sure of the set but ‘Bangin In Your Stereo’ and ‘In It Together’ were top notch and they certainly warmed up the audience for the main act. My advice to the band – give Baz a wide breath or risk getting your head knocked off with the mic stand – very impressively handled whilst going for his own rock star poses. You did good chaps.