Photography & Words By: Adam R. Harrison
Despite the treacherous weather Sunday night, April 15, English hard rock band, The Darkness, and a sold out crowd of almost 1,500 were given permission to land at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre. They are currently touring for their fifth studio album, Pinewood Smile. Even though these lads are no longer performing for stadiums and riding in on floating white tigers, like there epic 2003 debut, you are still always guaranteed consistency – 90 minutes of raunchy guitar riffs, pounding drums, wailing vocals and a showcase of showmanship.
The Darkness opened the night with “Open Fire” from 2015’s Last of Our Kind. However, the set was still most heavily favoured with songs from their ever popular first album Permission to Land. The first song of which was “Love Is Only a Feeling” and saw the packed audience waving their arms in the air along with the band.
At the foundation of the band is front man Justin Hawkins, who oozes entertainment and glam. Decked out in a skin-tight leopard print leotard, Hawkins pranced around the stage, with poses, stage jumps, and handstands with clapping feet all in his wheelhouse. When he would address the crowd, he would lick his guitar pick and stick it to his bare chest. “We’re not enjoying this as much as we should, are we?” asked Hawkins. “Let’s just take a minute to bask in this glorious moment… or consider it an awkward silence for those having a shit time.”
The set continued on with head bobbing, fist raising highlights like “Black Shuck,” “Friday Night,” and “Solid Gold” from Pinewood Smile. Before commencing into “One Way Ticket,” the band took a moment to celebrate the birthday of their bassist, Frankie Poullain, with a sing-a-long of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” which Hawkins cleverly worked back into the bridge break of “One Way Ticket.”
Nearing the conclusion of the main set, Hawkins introduced another song from their first record, “This next one I think has an important message for this day in humanity… It’s called Get Your Hands of My F*cking Woman You Motherf*cker!” As the wild song was commenced, an energetic fan enjoyed some crowd surfing. To which Hawkins joked, “Hey, I think I know that guy! Oh yeah, I recognize him from doing that two seconds ago.”
For the encore, Hawkins returned wearing only the shortest of shorts. The band teased the fans with similar rhythms to that of their mega hit, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” Hawkins then asked, “How would you like if we just reinvented that song in a clumsy faux flamenco way and then just left? Would that be a really shitty way to end it?… Well let’s try it then!” And so they did. After a few minutes of goofing off, they played the song for real, the fans went wild, and the everyone went home happy… Not yet!
Hawkins was not finished. For the grand finale, the band would play “Love on the Rock With No Ice.” During which, Hawkins hopped on the shoulders of a security guard, guitar in hand, made his way through the audience to the back of the venue. He then removed his axe, climbed the rafters, and made the sign of the cross before taking a swan dive into the crowd below. Pretty badass (and insane) for a rock star approaching his mid-forties!
All stunts aside, The Darkness are, and always have been, about one thing – rock n’ roll. Their music does the talking (when Hawkins isn’t) and they will continue to have a following because they deliver consistency every time. If you are a fan of rock music and haven’t experienced a Darkness concert, add it to your bucket list.