“I get to see THE DARKNESS again!? Alright!” is what I remarked to myself, or something to the tune of that. The last time I saw them was at House of Blues Dallas two years ago, and boy, did they blow the roof off the joint! So I was excited to get to catch them in action again, and this time, it was at South Side Ballroom, a much more intimate venue.
The evening started off with the opener, and although I cringe a little as I type their name, their energy was quite impressive. DIARRHEA PLANET, the six piece alternative rock/garage punk band took the stage and immediately took control of everybody’s attention. Although their sound was an unexpected pairing, their stage presence and banter certainly fit with what I knew was coming next. Their tremendous energy and generally playful nature really had the crowd amped up.
Toward the end of their set they told the fans that this is the part of the show that they like to do the thing they call “Waking The Darkness”…”So, on the count of three, I want everyone to yell, at the top of your lungs, “Daaaaaaarknesssss!!!!” Everyone did so. “Are they awake? No? Okay, Again, this time louder!…“Daaaaarknessss!!!”
This time, they launched into their final song, and as they were playing, THE DARKNESS slipped out from backstage and joined them. Meanwhile, a few of the guys leapt out into the fans for some crowd surfing, and the bass player, who had previously demonstrated his leaping abilities, climbed to the top of the nearest amp stack and jumped. The crowd loved it.
After a brief set change, it was time for the main entree! I made my way up to the photo pit, and got settled in for some great photo opportunities. As the lights began to pulse, the opening sounds of “Open Fire”, from their 2015 album Last of our Kind surrounded us.
As expected, the light show was as impressive as ever, and they came out of the gate swinging. One of the major attractions of THE DARKNESS is their incredible stage presence and witty banter. They are true performers, and the audience ate it up. If you’ve ever heard any of their songs, you’d be wondering if Justin Hawkins can actually hit those supersonic high notes in person. And very likely, you’d be as surprised as I was the first time I saw them live, that yes, he very well can.
Their immense energy, mixed with the amazing tones and shredding of Dan Hawkins, the heavy and groovy bass work, supplied by Mr. Frankie Poullain, the thunderous drumming from Rufus Tiger Taylor, and of course the great riffs of Justin Hawkins truly make for an unforgettable show. But, like I said, it’s their playful banter with the crowd that really give them their oh-so-likeable status.
At one point, between songs, Justin asked everybody to please raise their hands and shout and act like they’re really having a great time, so that “This guy over here’s” iPhone or iPad movies would look more like a great concert, and everyone would see it and want to have gone to the show! A bit later, he pointed out a young girl in the front row, asking her how old she was. Seven. After praising her parents for bringing her to the show, the crowd seized the opportunity to throw out song requests, and Mr. Hawkins proceeded to shoot them down, one by one saying “No, No, Can’t do that one. Why? Because, she (Pointing to the girl in the front row) can hear what I’m saying. She’s very perceptive.“
They finally came up with “Friday Night” off their 2003 Debut album Permission to Land. They continued their set, playing songs from all ends of their diverse song selection. As they masterfully worked the crazed fans into a cheering, yelling frenzy, they ended their regularly scheduled programming with “Growing on Me” and disappeared backstage, leaving the enthusiastic audience cheering and whistling for an encore.
We cheered. We screamed. We chanted. But nothing seemed to bring them back! The fans started to settle down, and I worried we were about to start losing people when at last, they reappeared, and it was made apparent to all what had taken so much time. They were all now dressed in very short Texas flag shorts (among other pieces of carefully selected attire) and the place went nuts! They finished off the set with “Japanese Prisoner of Love”, and, naturally, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”. During this one they invited the guys from DIARRHEA PLANET to add the full force of all 10 musicians, and totally set the place ablaze.
As I said last time, if you get the chance to see them, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. And then perhaps 3 or 4 more, so you can bring your friends. Because, the English gentlemen always put on a great show.
LIVE IMAGES AND WORDS: RYAN “C.B.” WHITEHEAD/ARDENT OWL MEDIA