When The Darkness scored two successive #2 hits in 2003, they were perhaps viewed as a bit of a novelty. Influenced by the 70s glam era, they were an old-school rock band riding high up the charts competing with the likes of Beyoncé, 50 Cent and Dido and more serious rockers like The White Stripes and Evanescence. Over the course of the next 15 years, the band have managed to elevate themselves from campy OTT rockers to fully fledged rock royalty.
Recorded during their 2017 Tour De Prance, Live at Hammersmith covers their five albums across furiously catchy 19 tracks. Like Kiss and T-Rex before them, The Darkness certainly know how to have fun, and this live album captures that enthusiasm and energy: the sweat, the euphoria of the crowd and the band sound cohesive and rejuvenated by the response to their music.
The banter from Justin Hawkins in between songs is humorous and not the usual ego-driven waffle you occasionally get from frontmen used to playing stadiums. The riffs come by the bucket-load with the Hawkins brothers taking the Guitar Hero crown for delivering several stand out licks on Barbarian, All the Pretty Girls, Makin’ Out and Open Fire. Rufus ’Tiger’ Taylor’s (son of Roger) fine drum work needs to be applauded. He’s aggressive in all the right places and knows when to hold back to make it count. Like his dad, he’s able to buoy a track up, and his relentless energy is contagious.
One of the band’s most distinctive and impressive features is Justin Hawkins’ falsetto vocals. Perhaps it’s a decade of wearing figure-hugging onesies, but barely a song goes by without his nut strangling high notes. Their signature track I Believe in a Thing Called Love is performed with the same vigour as the rest of the set. Like many of the classic rock riffs, it hasn’t aged and still ranks among one of the most memorable of all time.
They may still have a twinkle of Spinal Tap to their stage show, but this recording proves that The Darkness is far more than a novelty: they are a British musical institution.
Groupie Rating 4/5