I’ve been a fan of THE DARKNESS since I could actually sing along with them, or at least, hit those high notes. Funny, puberty has a way of making those difficult to reach. Anyway, you can imagine my excitement when I got the word I had been approved to shoot/cover them on their stop here at House of Blues Dallas for their Back to the USSA Tour. “Have you ever seen ‘em live?” The Maestro, my friend and editor asked me. When I said that I hadn’t, he assured me that I was in for a real treat. And boy, I tell you, he was right.
The night started off with the local opener JUNK. I’ve seen them a couple times now and they always have a great stage presence. Imagine ALICE IN CHAINS meets MEGADETH fronted by Johnny Depp. One thing I enjoy about these guys is the obvious chemistry.
Next to take the stage was RAVENEYE, a British rock band from Milton Keynes, UK. To say I was knocked out would be an understatement. The first song started with an absolutely killer guitar tone, a massive groove, and huge overall sound, particularly impressive given that they’re a three-piece. This was the standard for the rest of their set. It’s a bloody big challenge to hold your own on a stage with THE DARKNESS, and somehow, these guys did just that.
RAVENEYE did an admirable job getting the crowd warmed up, as you could feel the excitement and energy in the room. I got the chance to talk with them after they finished and I can honestly say they’re as cool off stage as they are on. I’m always stoked when a band can rock so hard, and also turn out to be really chill, down to earth guys.
They mentioned heading back across the pond to record an album before launching another U.S. tour. So if you see their name on a poster, do make an effort to check ‘em out. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing what’s to come from this tight, polished, hard rocking band.
Finally, it was time for THE DARKNESS. The fans were still amped up from the previous band. I was hearing conversations similar to the one I had with my editor before the show. “Have you seen them before?”…“This is going to be incredible”…”I’m so excited”…My favorite quote came from the beautiful Jasmine Rey, who I met up against the barricade, waiting for the show to start. “This is The Darkness! This is important!” she barked chastisingly at her distracted, apathetic companion.
You could tell she was excited, as was the rest of the crowd. Hell, I was pretty excited too. Then they took the stage. They opened with “Barbarians” off their latest album Last of Our Kind. As you could imagine, The fans went nuts. But not quite as nuts as when they hit the first few notes of “Get Your Hands off My Woman” A crowd favorite from their most famed album Permission To Land. In fact, I was super excited to hear them play a majority of the songs on that record.
The first three songs flew by as I was jetting from one end of the stage to the other, and back again. With such a high energy band, it was a wonderful show for us photographers. The lighting was impressive, if not incredibly challenging.
On an extremely impressive, and rather unexpected note, as the photographers were exiting the pit after our last song, 28-year old Justin Hawkins (more on this later), The voice of THE DARKNESS, called out: “Before you guys go, we’d like to take a moment and thank the photographers. They’ve done a fantastic job.” He then described to the audience a situation, where he noticed the photo pit getting crowded and we somehow managed to weasel our way in and around each other without conflict, and then he reached down to shake our hands. I was just passing him and reached up for a quick, but appreciative handshake. If you would have told me when I was a 10-year old kid that I’d have the opportunity to shake the hand of one of my musical heroes, such as Mr. Hawkins, I would have chuckled. This never happens in the pit. Bravo!
Now, I’m trying to figure out how to paint the picture of the rest of the show, without burning through three thousand words. It was simply incredible. To say these guys have a great stage presence is absolutely underselling it. They have so much energy. They’re absolutely brilliant at working the crowd, and they’re as tight as anyone I’ve seen live.
From the signature sound and killer riffs of Dan Hawkins on guitar, (seriously, how do you get those tones, man?!) to the huge groovy bass lines of Frankie Poullain, these guys are tight.
The man behind the kit, Rufus Taylor just pushes it to the next level. All setting up the platform for Justin Hawkins’ mind-bending vocal range.
If there are any up and coming bands that want to know how to work a crowd, this would be a great place to start your studies. They’re funny, entertaining and can rock you till next Tuesday. At one point, before starting their song “Friday Night”, Mr. Hawkins spotted a sweet little girl in the crowd. “Excuse me Sir, could you please pass me your child. I would like to borrow her for a moment.” After she was brought up onstage, he asked her what her name was. She answered in a sweet little 5-year old voice: “Um,… I don’t really want to do this…” “That’s okay, neither do I. No pressure…Well, if you change your mind at any point, please let the security man know and you’re welcome to come up on stage and finish the song with me. In fact, I’ll give you a ten dollar bill out of my own wallet.” The crowd cracked up (she never did.)
After she declined, he proceeded to find the oldest and second youngest fans in the crowd to take her place. “Let’s see,… I just realized, the difference in age between you two, 56 and 14 is equidistant to my age. 28… for those of you reviewing tonight’s show… make a note of that…28.”
It was this sort of banter that really made the show. Not to mention the incredible rock ‘n roll. Other memorable moments from the night included multiple crowd participation sing-alongs, a guitar solo performed on the shoulders of a security guard, while he walked through the crowd, and of course, the performance of “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, which was as amazing and impressive as I was hoping it would be. They then waved to the fans and made their way offstage.
After many cheers, chants and whistles, they came back to the delight of their fans for an encore. How the heck are they going to top “Thing Called Love”?! I remarked to myself… and somehow, they managed to completely bring down the house with “Love On the Rocks With No Ice”.
What an incredible concert. If you ever have the opportunity to see THE DARKNESS live, it would certainly be in your best interest to do so. I’ve seen a lot of shows, but few of them were as tight, polished, hard rocking and massively enjoyable as this one.
LIVE IMAGES AND WORDS: RYAN “C.B.” WHITEHEAD/ARDENT OWL MEDIA