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5th March 2013

Live: The Darkness

Catsuits, hair and rock signs – The Darkness reach Manchester on their Let Them Eat Cake World Tour

2nd March 2013

02 Manchester Apollo


When I was 12, I used to take my CD Walkman into the garden and listen to The Darkness’ debut album whilst I jumped on the trampoline. Now, this wasn’t as carefree and cool as it obviously sounds – not only was jumping in time with the beat a continually failed ambition, but I had to hold the CD player flat as I bounced so the songs didn’t skip. Whilst all my friends were saving to see the Trousersnake perform his Justified tour, I was scrimping for The Darkness posters and a Discman with ‘anti-skip’.

It’s been ten years since the release of the quadruple platinum selling Permission to Land brought semi-parodying 70s rock to the Brit Awards. 2003 was a time when Justin Hawkins reached the height of his bacchanalian excess, spending £150,000 on one night’s coke and flying around gigs in an enormous pair of knockers that he referred to as his “boob chariot”.

The original line up regrouped to record their third studio album Hot Cakes last year, bizarrely, bringing about a stint as main support on Lady Gaga’s stadium world tour. The band look exactly as they did a decade ago – a svelte front man shows no sign of the 5 stone he supposedly gained when off the road, and brother and guitarist Dan Hawkins still looks as dreamy as I remember (in a Carol King in flares kind of way). The only notable change to the troupe is that Justin has had their Suffolk home town of Lowestoft emblazoned in giant letters across his stomach, and is now sporting a nineteenth-century waxed moustache. Rock and roll.

As the band launch into Hot Cakes’ disappointing opening track ‘Every Inch of You’ the wonderfully varied audience begin to display their inevitable rock signs in approval their return to touring.  I ‘ironically’ throw up my horns in concordance, yet am hopeful that further underwhelming tracks from the album such as ‘Keep Me Hangin’ On’ and ‘Living Each Day Blind’ haven’t made the set list.

Luckily, my rock prayers are answered and dud tracks from both, One Way Ticket to Hell… And Back (which is all of them) and Hot Cakes are pared down to a minimum. Although, in an impossible feat, the unexpected Radiohead cover from the latest release sees ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ somehow become comparable to ‘Barracuda’ by Heart. This, likely to upset any joyless being, is a fine example of what an early-noughties Britain embraced about the band: performances of incredible musicianship with a distinct lack of bombastic seriousness.

Justin Hawkins hasn’t lost his implausible falsetto either, managing the anthemic “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and “Love is Only a Feeling” with ease and melodic finesse.  As I yelp through my Year 8 favourite ‘Giving Up’ screeching, “no I won’t apologise I’d inject into my eyes, if there was nowhere else to stick my skag!” I realise quite how marvellously ridiculous the whole affair really is. A headstand, staring contest, and piggy-back through the crowd, round off what has been an exhausting wonder to behold, but I feel like I’ve satisfied the 12 year old trampolinist in me. Finally.

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