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Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013

The Darkness @ The Rave

Jan. 26, 2013

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Photo by Kiri Lin
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In the seven years since The Darkness disbanded, Justin Hawkins got sober, his brother Daniel formed a new band and the world was forced to move on from its sudden obsession with power chords and leotards. Or so it seemed. During its performance at The Rave Saturday night, the reunited, re-energized Darkness showed it has not lost a step during its seven-year absence, nor has its audience abandoned its affection for the band—affection, which borders on rock ‘n’ roll hero worship.

And the band certainly lived up to that heroic image Saturday, taking the stage only after a deafening, pre-recorded bagpipe intro had brought the crowd to a roar, then tearing into an extremely loud hour-and-a-half of crunchy, theatrical classic rock. Despite a few brief detours into newer material, The Darkness blasted through nearly every song from its hit-packed debut album, Permission To Land, including crowd-pleasers “Get Your Hands Off My Woman,” “Growing On Me” and “Friday Night.” And it only took the first buzz saw chord of “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” to lift the crowd to a new level of frenzy late in the set. While these were the standouts, the band brought an equal amount of gumption to songs from its sophomore album One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back and 2012’s Hot Cakes, especially a heavy-metal interpretation of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” part of a three-song encore that ended finally with “Love on the Rocks with No Ice.”

Debate about this group’s level of irony is largely irrelevant when it comes to the live show, where any trace of the tongue-in-cheek was boiled down to youthful energy and old-fashioned, head-banging fun. Take, for example, indomitable frontman Hawkins who, barely clothed in a pinstripe jumpsuit, spent the night galloping across the stage, balancing on his head and posing suggestively with his guitar. None of it seemed unnatural or forced—not against the thundering backdrop of classic rock riffs and shout-along choruses about drugs and women. In between the hits, Hawkins hammed it up with the audience, at one point even descending into the rabid mass for a guitar solo atop the broad shoulders of a security guard.

It seems counterintuitive to complain about volume at a rock show, but it was my one gripe with Saturday’s performance. The guitars were dialed so high that it was sometimes hard to distinguish one from the other, washed out as they were in distortion and reverb. One or two slower, quieter moments would have been welcome amid the slabs of noise. As it was, even the semi-power ballad “Love is Only a Feeling” didn’t persuade anyone to lift their lighters. Then again, it’s probably unfair to expect that kind of nuance from a band whose most recent album cover features half-naked women sprawled out on giant stacks of pancakes.

With a world tour and a fourth album ahead of them, The Darkness seems poised for a legitimate comeback. On Saturday night, the band extolled the ancient virtues of rock ‘n’ roll to a devoted audience that was happy to be along for the ride again—even if their ears were still ringing the next morning.
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