Is 2003 too soon to be ‘nostalgic’? In all likelihood it is, but however you refer to that time, I was feeling that way when I walked into the sold out Commodore Ballroom to see The Darkness. It has been several years since the group from England has been in the spotlight, but they were planted in the spotlight in Vancouver on this past Friday.
I touched on the fact that The Darkness ‘split up’ while front man Justin Hawkins went through rehab for some substance abuse issues. He is “clean” now and the band is back to their old tricks. Justin was not in the spandex one piece suits that he was known for when the band exploded onto the musical landscape in the early 2000s. The one and more important part of his persona that was still in full swing was his voice. The falsetto notes were still hit with ease. He was animated on stage, often strapping on a guitar to play with the band, but it is vital to know that despite his high kicks, guitar riffs and dancing he was able to sing just as good as we all remembered.
So Hawkins didn’t look like the former glam rocker he used to, but bassist Frankie Poullain was in glam rock attire. Perhaps almost in a mocking way. He had the afro, headband, bell bottoms, mascara and what looked like a woman’s blouse on. With that element still on stage for the fans it was time to rock, and rock The Darkness did. The energy level never dipped. Once the group took the stage the intensity went through the roof and it never dropped below that level all night. Every person in the Commodore , in the crowd or on stage,were having a blast. You could see it in the smiles the members of the band and you could hear it in the screams, claps and sing-alongs from the audience.
With the venue being sold out it was evident that this gig was going to be a hit. The band struck a home run on stage. Justin’s brother Dan was a guitar god on stage all night, Ed Graham provided the showy drums that were expected and the mob in attendance joined in to sing-along on more than one occasion. It was a great moment at the show when Justin came out with an acoustic guitar and came to the mic and said “Sing Along with me if you dare” then he played a beautiful rendition of Holding My Own. The crowd took his challenge and sang along. After the song was done Justin turned to his band then back to the crowd and said “This is my favourite gig EVER”.
I was a fan of The Darkness when Permission To Land came out. I had it on repeat as I was getting ready for the show. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard about this concert and I was still unsure as I walked into the Commodore. One thing was clear as I was leaving, The Darkness is back. They still rock and Justin can still hit those high notes. Sure the one piece spandex has gone, but to be honest I am OK with that.
Photos © Jamie Taylor