The Darkness

support DZ Deathrays
author MN date 14/02/20 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

It is an adequate assessment to conclude that The Darkness has taken me and countless others by surprise with their resilience in an increasingly demanding rock scene. This quartet with a penchant for flamboyancy is, for some, the pinnacle of a cock-rock gimmick, but for others they are rock’n’roll saviours. I have always been of the latter persuasion, harbouring a respect for their knack for songwriting, virtuosic musicianship, and, most importantly, a tireless penchant for the entertaining rock show. It’s hard to believe that the fabled “Permission to Land” was released 16 years ago, so what has happened since the release of the record that shot them to international stardom?

In an almost cliché-fuelled irony, the unadulterated frontman Justin Hawkins lived life too hard in the fast lane and spiralled into a severe drug addiction. Within a span of two years, Hawkins purportedly spent 150.000 pounds on cocaine — a drug habit that eventually led to a two-year estrangement between Hawkins and his brother, guitarist Dan Hawkins. So after what seemed to be the unfortunate end of The Darkness, here we stand nonetheless, five records later and about to witness The Darkness perform at our cherished Copenhagen venue Amager Bio. Tonight’s concert is a showcase of the band’s most recent release, 2019’s “Easter Is Cancelled”, which they will perform in its entirety, followed by a so-called best of set. I personally think it’s refreshing that a band has the audacity to play their newest music instead of tailoring their set according to streaming hits and popular vote. Tonight’s support, DZ Deathrays, have flown in from Down Under, and are ready to present their post-punk inspired music to a Danish audience for the second time in less than a year. Read on to find out what yours truly found of the youthful Australians.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen


DZ Death Rays

My editor AP told me prior to the show that I should check out DZ Deathrays, so I spent an hour or so listening to their most recent releases. Tight-knuckled and noisy (in the best sense of the word) are my initial impressions of a band, who draw strong inspiration from the dance punk era of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Upon entering the venue, the trio takes the stage and lets loose a cannonball of energy, strongly anchored by a thumping drum sequence by the talented Simon Ridley. As the trio is lined up front-stage, this gives increased limelight to Ridley, who sparks the attention of several concertgoers in a refreshing sight. Their performance alludes to earlier The Offspring performances, and it is clear that the Americans have had a significant influence on DZ Deathrays. The performance of “In-to-It” showcases some of the more spoken word-style vocal techniques utilised by the energetic singer Shane Parsons. The chorus starts to have the crowd nodding in unison to a great punk song that loosens the joints! The Australians are performing with an underlying bass track, a well calibrated one in fact. Given that the trio had travelled all the way from Australia, it is easy to believe the cost of a session bassist would have been considerable — so given the resources at hand, DZ Deathrays play a commendable showcase of their jet-fuelled punk with the definitive highlight for me being the track “Gina Works for Heart”, a true party starter.

7


The Darkness

The venue tonight is close to sold-out, an encouraging sign that rock’n’roll is in fact very much alive — which is truly oxymoronic, as The Darkness enter the stage with an initial basher in “Rock’n’roll Deserves to Die”. We’re happy to see Justin and his compatriots in high spirits from the get-go. Sporting a Freddie Mercury-esque unitard, he leads his white-clad gang with a delightful charisma, and, upon finishing this first track, shows true class by attempting to locate an audience member with whom he had the unfortunate incident of knocking over his beer upon entering the stage from the flanks. The dumbfounded fan is located, and a beer is sent via the audience directly in to the hands of the fan in question. The set then continues with the ballad “How Can I Lose Your Love” and the punk-tinged “Live ‘til I Die”. “Heart Explodes” unveils some of the astounding guitar talent of both Justin and Dan. Very few musician can make a Les Paul squeal like Justin, and every solo of the set is performed with astonishing accuracy, but also a flair for the unexpected. “Easter Is Cancelled” nods at influences from both AC/DC and Queensrÿche, with the falsetto of Justin reaching unbelievable heights, to absolutely no one’s surprise.

As the rest of the set unfolds, I start to understand why this includes a single-album performance. “Easter Is Cancelled” is proving to be one of their absolute strongest releases since “Permission to Land”. In today’s streaming culture, whole albums are often sacrificed for tailored Spotify playlists, either self-crafted or created by algorithms. So, what better way to make sure you give their recent record an honest chance? Perform the fuck out of it in front of a live audience. The initial set is ended with an homage to the guitar in form of “We Are the Guitar Men”.

After a significant wardrobe change, The Darkness reappear with Justin sporting a glowing red unitard, while bassist Frankie Poullain is now wearing a psychedelic kimono that is probably five or six sizes too small. The hilarity of the costume changes is a refreshing change of pace. Opening with “One Way Ticket” we are now entering a domain of nostalgia! A song with clear references to AC/DC, the audience begins to sing along with candour. There is a captivating energy and we’re well underway as crowd favourite “Growing on Me” is performed as the first entry from their début album. “Japanese Prisoner of Love” and “Solid Gold” from the “Powdered Sugar” record adds extensive variety to an already well-constructed setlist, while “Giving Up”, “Love Is Only a Feeling” and “Get Your Hands of My Woman” signal the night’s classic love song and a monumental fuck you to the concept of Valentine’s Day — something The Darkness really don’t give two shades of shit about.

Another fantastic attitude shown by Justin is his approach to photography of his shows; instead of bickering and moaning about the tiresome use of cell phones at shows, he shows creativity in nominating one audience member to film the latter part of the show, whilst asking everyone else to put their phone down. Incredibly, it seems to work, and the crowd remains totally involved in the concert. In true rock’n’roll spirit, Justin flings himself upon the audience, crowd-diving to finish off this best of set. The encore, with not a shred of surprise, is a performance of their magnum opus, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, a song that is the ultimate highlight of the evening.

Tonight’s show is revelatory. The Darkness are nowhere near an obsolete notion of rock’n’roll. In fact, they are torchbearers — a band with a relentless energy and dedication to the solid rock’n’roll extravaganza. As a reviewer, one must also put on the critical glasses though, and through personal scrutiny I find it incredibly difficult to point out any loose ends, weak points or failing inter-song banter. From start to finish, The Darkness prove why they are often regarded as one of the most fun and greatest performers out there today. Last time I saw them, they had the blood-curdling scrutiny of the Copenhell crowd, and for that reason, they seemed a bit off at the shipping yard. Tonight, they proved that in their own arena, with their own rules and parameters, The Darkness are a crème de la crème performative engine!

9

Setlist:

  • 01. Rock and Roll Deserves to Die
  • 02. How Can I Lose Your Love
  • 03. Live ‘til I Die
  • 04. Heart Explodes
  • 05. Deck Chairs
  • 06. Easter Is Cancelled
  • 07. Heavy Metal Lover
  • 08. In Another Life
  • 09. Choke on It
  • 10. We Are the Guitar Men

— Intermission —

  • 11. One Way Ticket
  • 12. Barbarian
  • 13. Growing on Me
  • 14. Japanese Prisoners of Love
  • 15. Love Is Only a Feeling
  • 16. Solid Gold
  • 17. Giving Up
  • 18. Street Spirit (Fade Out)
  • 19. Get Your Hands Off My Woman

— Encore —

  • 20. I Believe in a Thing Called Love

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