The Darkness - Bristol O2 Academy - 14th November 2011 Print E-mail
Written by Jamie Richards   
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 05:00

Darkness_Tour_PosterAn air of trepidation was with me for the ride tonight as I darted along the countryside rat run that is my short cut to the old Severn Bridge.  I'm en route to Bristol, to be present at one of the comeback dates for monumental jocular rockers the Darkness, and it's with me simply because since I'd got these tickets back in June I had remembered that I was actually 'over' the Darkness way before they imploded four or five years ago. Kudos to them though, for deciding to trawl their bony arses up and down the more modest venues of the UK, when the 'special guest' spot they were awarded at this year's Download festival may well have tempted them to think they were still at their Arena fighting weight.


First band of the night is California based four piece Crown Jewel Defense, and they turn in a reasonably entertaining, if not completely original, short set. The venue is already 90% full, and  the partisan crowd enjoy it well enough, and it's fair to say that had the front man played it to them a little more, rather than to the roadies at stage side, then it may have even gone a little better for them: and dudes, what the hell? I've seen Rush perform for two and a half hours with fewer instrument changes!!


Next out of the traps tonight is the interestingly named Foxy Shazam (a new name to me but, as I find out later, not to URHQ) who nonchalantly wander onto the Bristol stage looking like they just quit the Jim Rose Circus sideshow.  They're a six piece, with a trumpeter adding to the regular vocals, bass, drums, guitar, keys, and if looking amazing wasn't enough, this crackpot sextet let rip with the most funk and soul infused rock 'n' roll I've heard in like "forever". If Sly And The Family Stone formed a super group with Boston they would probably sound like this, it pumps and it grooves and it schmoozes along in high octane fashion, it's a sound that is, in a word, "special".


The performance is almost as breathtaking, front man Eric Nally cavorts and poses, and at one point leaps right up onto the guitarists shoulders in a rare display of rock 'n' roll gymnastics, but there's a bit more to this dude, who looks like a diminutive Bill the Butcher in leather and sparkling lycra; and that's his unique, and quite brilliant voice. Foxy Shazam finish up with a song titled 'Unstoppable', it's also the slogan emblazoned across their T-shirt at the merch stall, and unstoppable they are. Tonight Foxy Shazam delivered the musical equivalent of getting a blow job from a beautiful stranger on a train, and by that I mean it was totally unexpected, unforgettably brilliant...and I'm really, really hoping to bump into them again sometime, and sooner rather than later!


So the main event? The words "The" and "Darkness", when uttered in the same sequence, have been known to induce all manner of reactions among the hierarchy at Uber HQ. From minor shows of disgust, to open scenes of civil disobedience, many a coffee cup has been known to hit the deck in shattering splinters of cheap china at the mere mention of the band's name: so it's to the credit of the dudes who control this hallowed output that they will allow them to be included on these sacred pages, even if it is to the sound of HB pencils crumbling in disgusted, hate filled arthritic fists.


If you ask me it's a fable that The Darkness broke up over control issues, sibling rivalry and smack habits. The truth is their second album was a stinker, a shocker a complete loss of focus that resulted in a turkey of such gargantuan proportions that you'd still be making a rancid curry from it come August Bank holiday. It was indeed the proverbial bag of shit; but to be fair to them tonight they make a half decent effort at polishing two of the turds contained within said bag, but sensibly they keep it sealed for the most part. Predictably it's the first album that features heavily, pretty much in its' entirety actually, with an opening one-two of 'Black Shuck' and 'Growing On Me' sending the amassed hordes into instant ecstasy. My personal favourite, 'Get Your Hands Off My Woman', is aired earlier than expected and brings with it a suitably foul-mouthed "sing off"' between sections of the audience at front man Justin Hawkins' command, and indeed pleasure.


There's a smattering of new tunes that sound promising enough, and remind me that I always thought they sounded more reminiscent of classic early AC/DC rather than the Queen comparison that was constantly aimed at them, and at times during the set I almost expected a song to break into a 'Powerage' era DC classic.  Hawkins leers around the stage in more standard rock star attire of torn jeans, as oppose to the ludicrous jump suits he made his trade mark back in the day, but alas he re-appears mid set clad in first of two said garments. To me, the idiotic apparel doesn't so much show off his cock as make him look like one; but everyone else seems happy with it so I'll move on, and to be fair he reminds us that he is anything but shabby when it comes to knowing his way around a fret board as his Les Paul is put through the ringer on some sonically extended workouts. I am pleased to hear the super speedy Radiohead cover, 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)', is still in the set, and as part of the encore we get a more than decent version of Queen's 'Tie Your Mother Down'. As we're in November the band find it enough reason to shoe horn their Christmas hit into the set and amid a flurry of fake snow/confetti the crowd buys into it completely and goes completely crackers (I know, terrible pun), man these people really love this band! The final two songs of an enjoyable set come in the shape of 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love' and 'Love On The Rocks', and by the reaction of this crowd I imagine that the band will soon be back in the saddle at the larger venues they enjoyed playing before they split a few years back.


Let's just hope that this time, for his and the band's sake, when the Darkness does return in 2012 it's not a giant white tiger saddle that Justin Hawkins climbs onto. It was the over play of idiocy (among other things) that brought about the premature demise of this band last time around, so if they just keep in mind that rock 'n' roll can be great fun without being funny, then they should carry on playing many more decent shows, for many more years, and probably in much larger venues than this; I'm just not sure I'll be there.