Review by JoJo Anthony
Photos by Joe Schaeffer
The British band The Darkness made their triumphant return to Los Angeles at the historic Wiltern. Their appearance was part of their 2023 North American tour, that runs until the end of October, before they head back to Europe for more dates.
The Darkness released their first album Permission To Land in 2003 and immediately found success with the single “I Believe In A Thing Called Love.” Many of us remember the accompanying video for the song. At the time, we couldn’t decide if the band were serious or were they a mockery of the 80s Hair Metal genre. They would find great success performing at large festivals throughout Europe.
Their sophomore effort, One Way Ticket to Hell… And Back was produced by the legendary Roy Thomas Baker who has worked with Queen, The Cars, Journey and Foreigner. Sadly, the Darkness disbanded after that due to personal health issues. However, they reunited in 2012 and have released five more solid albums.
One thing that has always amused me about the Darkness is that I’ve always thought of them as one of the “newer” bands in rock. Ironically, they are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album. Most of the songs performed at this evening’s show were from this album.
They opened with “Black Shuck” featuring some AC/DC like power chords. From the first song, the Los Angeles audience was responsive and ready to rock. Segueing into “Get Your Hands Off My Woman,” I was immediately struck by the strength of lead vocalist and guitarist Justin Hawkins and his phenomenal voice. The man can howl like a banshee, and he certainly hasn’t lost anything over the past two decades.
One thing that was immediately noticeable about the Darkness was just how fantastic the band sounded. Guitarist Dan Hawkins (Justin’s brother), bassist Frankie Poullain, and drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor (son of Queen drummer Roger Taylor), were extremely tight, which allowed their frontman to prance about the stage freely. He is definitely entertaining. I can’t recall the last time I saw someone do a handstand and clap his feet to the beat of the song.
The performance of “Givin’ Up” featured some participation from the audience as they sang the chorus at the top of their lungs. This was my third time seeing the Darkness and the audience was the most energetic crowd I’d ever seen. The band certainly has a loyal and dedicated following. They continued on with more songs from the debut album like “Love Is Only A Feeling.” The pleasant surprise was that they featured songs that appear as outtakes from the current 20th anniversary box set of Permission To Land, like “How Dare You Call This Love?” and “Curse Of The Tollund Man.”
The only song at this performance that wasn’t from the debut album was a cover of “Street Spirit” by Radiohead and featured on the third album Hot Cakes. The set continued with “Holding My Own” and “Friday Night.” They closed the show with the highly successful single “A Thing Called Love.”
At this time, Hawkins asked the audience to put away their cell phones, opting instead to randomly pick out two audience members to come up and film the performance of the song. I really appreciated this move because I wish more audiences would sit back and enjoy a great show and worry less about sharing poorly shot photos on social media. Besides, there are some fantastic photographers in attendance who can handle that job. Joe Schaeffer is proof of that. The band exited the stage after a great performance of the song, which had the audience once again shouting out the chorus loudly.
The Darkness would return for a much-deserved encore wearing only robes and the band members switching up instruments to perform another outtake from Permission To Land called “I Love You 5 Times.” This was followed by another outtake, “Love On the Rocks With No Ice.”
This was my favorite performance from the Darkness even though they performed songs from only one album. This was mainly because one could obviously see that the band was fired up and into this performance, plus the audience was spectacular. They never let up and their enthusiasm could be heard and felt throughout the venue.
This leads me to wonder why this band hasn’t graduated to playing large arenas in America. They play large festivals all over the world and are one of the best live acts I’ve seen in a very long time. I can honestly say that the Darkness are one of the best bands out there today. Hopefully soon, they will become a household name in America. They deserve it.