The zealously retro rockers known as The Darkness came to town to burn Irving Plaza down to it’s forever-glam-rockin’ core. Sure, this band is best known for its tongue-in-cheek exemplification of over-the-top 70’s and 80’s rockers to an almost Spinal Tap level of devotion, but I contend they are exactly what the rock world needs. In a time such as this, when every single group and musical act seems to take themselves so damned seriously it all makes you want to sob uncontrollably into an endless pit of your own discontent, The Darkness dispenses with pretenses and makes you remember all the things that made rock n’ roll so incredible in days of yore; high-pitched vibrato-heavy singing, flashy bombastic nimble-fingered guitar solos, outlandishly sexy bravado for on-stage authority, wildly flashy outfits and stage sets to knock out the senses, and of course, intensely climaxing song structures to make everyone’s internal rock n’ roll animals orgasm everywhere with each sermon. This band has seemed to have actually broken some Da Vinci code of devout classic rock formulas of the greats like AC/DC, KISS, Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, and even Zeppelin to produce a truly heavenly mix of divine rocking power. As one of the openers said later in the night, “Thank you Darkness for giving us our guitar heroes back!”
Opening the show was the only American stage presence of night, in the form of the bad boys of Brooklyn aptly called Best Behavior. This indie garage band has been garnering quite a bit of attention for their debut LP Good Luck Bad Karma, and this is a band that certainly deserves the notice. The band is a wild who’s who of Brooklyn bands, with Alex Gruenburg skiping about on guitar and vocals, Jon Mann ripping the guitar power chords, Chris Jimenez destroying behind the drumkit, and it was also fun to hearing their new bassist Dan Jacobson kick things up a notch. They have a rather unique mix of surf, punk, garage, and pop rock that converges into a rather impressively fun and furious experience. Bits of Kinks, Dick Dale, Thee Oh Sees, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and even Wavves emerge in their deliciously bouncy sound. Best Behavior is definitely a band worth cranking up to maximum volume.
Next up was another UK outfit called RavenEye, who are also great disciples of the outrageous, guitar-riffing, rock n’ roll excesses that many were here for this night, and they did not disappoint. This power trio is all about the fun and overindulgences of the rock esthetic, but there is one very straightforward musical comparison that you can’t avoid making with this band; they sound like a very, very amped-up Soundgarden. Wherein the headlining Darkness singer could be often aptly compared to a modern day Freddie Mercury of Queen or Ronnie James Dio, this band’s vocalist and guitarist Oli Brown is like a British re-creation of Chris Cornell, with a total powerhouse voice sometimes sounding like the earlier, more stripped-down days of Louder Than Love, and sometimes more like his more recent Audioslave stage, but either way, the comparison is hard to avoid noticing. I was rather surprised to read that Brown’s background is actually in hardcore blues music, but I suppose I can be to surprised after hearing their new debut EP called Breaking Out, as it clearly has some supernaturally diverse choices in sound in there.
When frontman Justin Hawkins stepped on stage you could feel the electricity charging up the packed room. Dressed in a wild red lace and stripes one-piece getup and covered in tattoos and piercings, this guy is just rock n’ roll excess incarnate. Yes, his voice is stunning in its falsetto brilliance, but the way he connects with the audience with his whirlwind British charisma is the real show-maker. From gabbing with members of the press in the photo pit early on, to tons of technical advice to fellow musicians in the audience like, “it’s all about how convincingly you play even if you fuck up just as much as how convincingly you glare at your technician from the stage,” it’s all just hilarious intercourse he holds with his listeners. He just went on and on about the ins and outs of playing on stage not just for the laugh in the Spinal Tap tradition, but a real way for the audience to share in the experience of staging a real rock show.
I’ve been a follower of the band since their debut album, Permission to Land, was released back in 2003, and have eagerly seen them many times over the years. Even though they tripped over themselves after their extraordinary success of their first two albums when Hawkins had to take an extended leave to do some serious rehab for drug addiction, the guys all got their mojo back just a few years back for a reunion. I also happen to feel their last album Last Of Our Kind is their finest release to date. Despite the many personnel changes of their past, it happily appears as though the original band is largely back; with Justin and his brother Dan Hawkins on guitars, Frankie Poullain on bass, and the one major replacement being Rufus Tiger Taylor (son of Queen drummer Roger Taylor) behind the kit. One totally unexpected addition for the night was the muscle-bound saxophonist Timmy Cappello (who you may remember from the weird beach scene from the 80’s film The Lost Boys) popped onstage for some saxy renditions of “Roaring Waters” and the grand finale encore of “Love on the Rocks with No Ice.” As Hawkins said after the first jam, “This is easily my favorite part of the tour, and I’m happy to announce Tim will also be our fifth member on our upcoming album!” So, there we have two new epic pieces of info for all The Darkness fans out there, and I personally look forward to praying at their rock n’ roll alter again real soon.
Article: Dean Keim