Live Review – The Darkness
The Gov – Sunday 15 March 2020
Words & Photos – Geoff Jenke
“Here we are gathered in this room, doing what the geniuses of the world are telling us what not to do. If we play till after midnight, we will all be confined here and then we will really have to get to know each other. DO YOU WANNA DANCE?” And so, says Justin Hawkins at the Gov to a packed audience.
The rest of The Darkness Australian tour was cancelled following the Adelaide gig, meaning a Melbourne and Brisbane gig won’t go ahead and “they won’t let us into New Zealand” commented Justin. These here are indeed crazy times.
It would have been easy for The Darkness to just get on stage and play the songs and get the hell out of Adelaide. But to their credit, it was now the last date on their Australian tour and they were here to have fun and enjoy themselves.
The band dressed in white for the playing of their new album, Easter is Cancelled. Not many bands could get away with playing a new album in it’s (almost) entirety. The Darkness fans are such that they revel in anything the band play and know all the words and songs. Starting with Rock and Roll Deserves to Die, probably my favourite on the new album, it was obvious that the band were out for a good time from the start. Dan Hawkins on lead guitar kept his guitar tech busy during the opening song, changing from acoustic to electric several times. On drums was non other than Rufus Taylor, son of Queen drummer, Roger Taylor, showing he has picked up a few moves from his famous father. He even moved to keyboards at one stage.
Despite the first set being the new album, someone in the audience kept asking for older songs. “Don’t you get it” queried Justin, “We are playing the new album at the moment. No, we won’t play that song”. Playing the song Easter is Cancelled, Justin told us “We predicted that” in reference to the current world issues. With Marshall speakers set up behind them, and put to good use, the band unleash the new album upon the gathered mass of fans. The finale came with just Justin on stage, playing acoustic guitar for the song We Are the Guitar Men bringing the audience down from their high.
Set two and a costume change to black for band members. It started with bass player Frankie Poullain coming out on stage with a cowbell and inciting the audience to get him to hit it, which he eventually did, leading into One Way Ticket and also leading into the crowd at the front going crazy, bouncing and singing along. There is just not enough cowbell in rock‘n’roll these days.
Set two also delved into their debut album Permission to Land with 5 tracks coming from it of which surprisingly Givin’ Up for me was the highlight. It rocked and rocked hard. More requests came for songs from the audience with Justin laughingly telling them, “we travelled continents to get here and you just want us to do your favourite songs? Why don’t we do the songs we practiced”.
A cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out) from the 1995 The Bends album was a surprise. Darkness playing Radiohead? Just doesn’t sound right but it worked, especially with the inclusion of some of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gentle Weeps in the song.
A frantic Get Your Hands off My Woman closed out the set.
The encore was a bit of chaos as Justin invited the support band, The Southern River Band, to join them on stage. Panic ensured as the guitar tech tried to find enough instruments for them to play, the drummer settling on the cowbell. I Believe in a Thing Called Loved ensured while it sure as hell sounded loose it was great. This is what rock’n’roll is all about. Having a great time.
The band left the stage and we left The Gov, smiles on our faces.
I have seen The Darkness before at a festival and also in a theatre but for me, this pub gig was the best. It seemed to suit the band to be up close and personal with its fans. Maybe it was just a “last night of our tour” thing but it sure was fun.
Support band The Southern River Band were ideal openers with a lead singer/guitarist every bit as flamboyant as Justin Hawkins. They describe their music as a Rock’n’Roll dance party and it sure is that. They played with the swagger of a band that has already made it big and were even louder than the main band. Watch out for them.