Review: The Darkness @ Manchester Academy

The Darkness deliver this wave of intoxicating exhilaration in earnest, sounding supersonic in the flesh, with frontman Justin Hawkins never being better.

Kicking the frenzy off with Barbarian, the lead single from their new album Last of Our Kind, the band encapsulate the general tone of the show.

Psychedelic lights to engulf the eyes, bare knuckle guitar rhythms, and Hawkins showcasing his signature high tenor singing voice whilst prancing around the stage, gradually losing his clothes.

Following two old-time favourites Black Shuck and Growing on Me, the band play out the riotous single Mudslide.

Which gets the whole crowd fighting for the spot to scream, ‘It’s a f***ing mudslide!’ craving for recognition.

Justin, being the excellent crowd-relations frontman that he is, gracefully throws the mic out to one ecstatic young lady.

Who, after somewhat tripping over her own words, screams the phrase with all her heart, and the band respond with a heavy ending drop.

A few more songs later, Justin gives the spotlight to bassist Frankie Poullain, who has always maintained a sharp suit attire and extremely impressive moustache.

He holds up a cow bell and drumstick and lets the crowd build up several rounds of anticipation roars before stricking strong, initiating the thick, methodical direction of One Way Ticket, belting out to a sensational climax.

After a smattering of songs from across the board of album releases, plenty of banter with the crowd – including Hawkins putting a certain member’s phone down his trousers for being rude to a kid – the band reckons the crowd has got tired, and decides to step up proceedings again.

“I feel like there’s a lull right now, who wants something old and recognisable?” Justin remarks jovially to the crowd. Thunderous cheers respond.

Justin then warns us, “Well then, you’d better keep your hands off my mother-f***ing woman!”

To the uneducated ear, this would seem a threat, but not to this lot.

Feet start pounding the ground, screams erupt, and the Get Your Hands off My Woman blast into song. A special moment for any Darkness fan.

Initially rounding off the event with an extravagant production of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, with Justin remarking, “You guys gotta bounce for this. I can’t take anyone seriously without a bounce factor”.

The band leave the stage with prestige.

The lights stay down, of course, and for a few minutes all to entertain us is a dancing Santa and snowman being erected.

But then we’re welcomed back to the frenzy with a delightfully upbeat show of Christmas Time, the band’s current festive tune.

As a closing spectacle, the famous cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit plays out with spell-binding up-tempo guitar work from Dan Hawkins.

Followed by the blinding and deafening climax of Love on the Rocks With No Ice, in which Justin, dressed in nothing but white boxers and his guitar, jumps on the back of a bouncer and rides through the crowd, soloing all the way.

A sight for rock-starved eyes, and a sweet sound to the ears, Justin’s voice easily makes it clear of the surrounding music.

Never getting drowned out and the pristine guitar didn’t even sound this sharp on the record.

An extravagant, absorbing and exhausting set from The Darkness, proving that regardless of what critics will say, rock is very, very far from dead.

Image courtesy of ted van pelt, with thanks.

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