Live Review – The Darkness, Exeter 29.11.21 :

The only reason that I was not into The Darkness (I LOVE that they still do the “gimme a D, gimme an Arkness” thing, I always spell it D’Arkness, but have not here in case people tell me I’ve spelt it wrong, you know, 2021) from day one is that the guy who first said I would love them described them as “Really funny” and because he was one of those people who just jokes all the time and thinks he is on the world’s smallest stage, I presumed they would be a terrible joke version of the 80’s hair metal that I loved and still love. I can’t even remember the name of that dude, but once fave journalist Simon Price began also namedropping them, I investigated (no streaming services, kids!) and found that they were fvcking BRILLIANT.

Permission To Land swept the awards, from The Brits to Kerrang! it seemed that they had the world at their feet. But in 2021, how do they fare? I excitedly told some of my fave people I was going to this gig, one said “Are they still going?” and the other “Oh, they had that annoying song. And an annoying Christmas song, right?” Trust me, I listed many many great songs, of which there is only ONE annoying one, that elephant in the room will come in a minute when I finish praising the 2021 audio version of the band. Motorheart the album is fvcking BRILLIANT. (see?) All of the Queen flourishes you want (they even have Roger Taylor’s son on drums now and he is grrrreat) and the massive choruses that those who have stuck the course know they can just toss out whenever they want. Aside from the opener, oh here’s that goddamn elephant. Welcome Tae Glasgae is exactly what I expected when people were wrongly referring to them as a joke. A song about Glasgow and how the food and the girls are great. Funny voices, joke lyrics, it is terrible. This is a five star album, reduced to a four just by the opener – remember this is a band that opened their debut with motherfvcking BLACK SHUCK.

Still, they won’t play it live will they…Oh, they are opening with it. Oh. I frowned for a whole couple of minutes and then One Way Ticket kicked in, followed by Growing On Me and holy shit, I remember why I love this band so much. In case you think this is just a ‘few beers and nostalgia’ gig, Motorheart and Sticky Situations are personal highlights. Justin happily announces that the new record has (deservedly, please go listen) gone in at number one on the rock charts. Tellingly, he then says “How many of you have heard it?” and there is a oooh, 1/3 response “Oh, I’d say that’s about a third of you!” he acknowledges, but he doesn’t do the stroppy ‘Love our new things’ act that some older bands do, you’re always only a few tracks away from a classic from the first two records and he welcomes all of these great tracks whether a week old or, gulp, 18 years, with a throw up of the horns and a smile and even some beautiful Steven Tyler jumps off of the drum riser. This is a stadium show, no matter the size of the uni venue.

Highlights for me? Givin’ Up and Friday Night are still timeless metal classics and my favourite ever D’Arkness moment Get Your Hands Off My Woman was incredible, if they just played that 2:46 seconds of ROCK and then went home, it would still be an amazing night, but they have so many great tracks, it is easy to forget, please, go and click on one of the Essential Playlists and you will see what I mean, if you haven’t followed the career. But then pick up a physical version of Motorheart too, as this is a band with a whole album of tracks ready to be classics, aside from that opener, but hey, Positivity/Show Me The Wonder/Student Demonstration Time/Octopus’ Garden, they all have one. I just have to learn to put the needle down on Track Two without scratching it.

They had played so many of my favourite songs, that I had genuinely forgotten about I Believe In A Thing Called Love, but as the intro kicked in, you saw people who had been completely oblivious to so many classics before it suddenly come alive and the whole venue was bouncing like it was 1989 or you know 2003, magic, absolute magic. Oh I have not even mentioned Justin’s (may I call you Justin, sir? He really seems like he wants to be friends with every single one of us throughout the show) fantastic golden jumpsuit, this is some glorious Van Halen shit! (Also, if you have not subscribed to his new Youtube channel, go there now, he has a wide range of musical loves and it is interesting to see him talk about artists from Yungblud to Greta Van Fleet)

So, are they going to play the one that everyone knows and then bring on the lights? Well, the darkness, literal one, is still being cut up by spinning lights and it seems there is another…Holy Shit, Rufus Taylor is dressed as a fvcking Christmas tree! Justin is Santa and Dan, well he has a nice Marshall stacks jumper. And so they kick in to one of the few Christmas tunes that I love, musically it is great and this is an awesome version, but I love how the lyrics are actually really fvcking sad.

“Feigning joy and surprise, at the gifts we despise over mulled wine, with you” is an absolute killer. But hey, there is a guy dressed as a lobster on the stage (I know his name is Elliot as he fixed the drums earlier and played some awesome cowbell and got a little song in tribute, which was lovely) and a crowd that even in November makes me think that there is going to be snow when I leave. Hell, did I mention they also played Mistletoe And Wine, yeah, that happened.

Holy cow, what a gig, afterwards there were nothing but smiling faces and me in my Skid Row shirt clocked Def Leppard, KISS, Motley Crue and Dio shirts and we nodded to each other like proper rock fans. Because this was a proper rock gig. That is not meant in a gatekeeping way, I just mean it was an hour and a half of forgetting the fvcking Omicron world and remembering how it feels to ROCK! Amazing.

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