|British rock group The Darkness, (L-R) Dan Hawkins, Justin Hawkins, Ed Graham and Frankie Poullain in a 2004 file photo. (Reuters/Stephen Hird)
There is light for The Darkness after all.
About a decade ago the British rock quartet were plastered all over music magazines for their sound heavily influenced by '70s glam rock, Queen and a tablespoon of AC/DC. But as if on cue lead singer Justin Hawkins left the group after two studio albums to get clean, leaving the band's future as convoluted as Sinead O'Connor's current marital status.
Last year the foursome reunited. And judging by a sold-out classic rock party at Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre Wednesday evening they have plenty left to give.
Launching their North American tour and a new studio album looming, The Darkness delivered a generally solid set that could be aptly described by The Who album: Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy.
With Hawkins looking lean and delivering scissor kicks, the group hit the ground running with a foot-stomping Black Shuck as Hawkins easily hit those challenging high notes. And fans definitely showed their love early with hands swaying and singing. Others kept some old-school concert staples alive with cigarette lighters overhead.
“Thanks everyone, it's really nice to be back here in Toronto!” Hawkins said before The Best Of Me, strapping on an electric guitar and playing it behind his back alongside guitarist Dan Hawkins. Meanwhile bassist and bandana-sporting Frankie Poullain showed himself to be an “accomplished percussionist” by playing cowbell on One Way Ticket from 2005's album One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back.
Although there's nothing highly experimental or innovative taking place during their concerts, they deserve kudos for taking classic '70s rock and putting a present-day shine on it. Whether on Love Is Only A Feeling which has a bit of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust in it or the Queen-tinged, party-rocker Friday Night, The Darkness pull it off with flair. A fantastic, galloping rendition of Radiohead's Street Spirit (Fade Out) might not be what Thom Yorke had in mind but was another standout.
As for new material, Nothin's Gonna Stop Us came off punk-ish but average. Out Of This World had Hawkins briefly resembling Slash for the softer pop number. The one jewel was without question Concrete, a jackhammer blast of guitar riffs that got a strong response despite being basically unknown.
The Darkness left most of their big hits such as I Believe In A Thing Called Love, Stuck In A Rut and Love On The Rocks With No Ice until the end but Get Your Hands Off My Woman was an early treat with Hawkins urging the audience to one-up their American neighbours. “Now is not the time for modesty,” he said, wanting fans to show that the “elevated position on the map is more than geography.”
Overall The Darkness made a very good first impression. Again.
Openers Foxy Shazam were also worth noting for lead singer Eric Sean Nally. When not falling onstage the rail-thin Nally lit some cigarettes, briefly smoked said cigarettes and then extinguished them by eating them. Perhaps some Nicorette is in order.
Growing On Me
The Best Of Me
One Way Ticket
Nothin's Gonna Stop Us
Get Your Hands Off My Woman
Out Of This World
Holding My Own
Love Is Only A Feeling
Everybody Have A Good Time
Is It Just Me?
Street Spirit (Fade Out)
She's Just A Girl
Stuck In A Rut
I Believe In A Thing Called Love
Love On The Rocks With No Ice