The Darkness at First Avenue, 1/29/13
|Photo by Marc Warnest|
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The relatively full Tuesday night crowd swelled to the strains of Led Zeppelin's "Misty Mountain Hop," Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town," and some sort of Irish-tinged choir intro music warmed the speakers. The fist-banging audience was already amped for another visit from Lowestoft's finest metal mavens, the Darkness. Although the band regaled First Avenue with its British style of hard rock virtuosity just last February, the delirious Mainroom audience managed to brandish a spirit and accompany the Hawkins brothers and crew through a galloping set that depended heavily on last year's party time opus, Hot Cakes -- as well as the band's signature material.
Looking like he had just had his way with Nikki Sixx's wardrobe closet, lead man Justin Hawkins immediately commanded the stage with his white Gibson. He delivered rapid-fire, brawny leads whose high notes were only topped with the metal god's screeching vocals. Bursting out with the opener "Every Inch of You" from Hot Cakes the Darkness then quickly retreated to some of their set standards, "Black Shuck" and "Growing On Me," both from the band's debut, Permission to Land that further electrified the crowd and keeping them singing along.
"We are so happy to be back here. I feel even more inflated with my own self-importance," Hawkins proclaimed unsarcastically in his British accent. "I'd like to perform for you a song that goes back to a time in my life that was very special to me, A time when I often wondered who was going to get me cocaine." Then, the band broke out another protypical anthem, "One Way Ticket".
Always in sync and connected musically, what's most exciting about the band themselves is the seemingly effortless approach that packs so much energy, making their music even stronger and more fun to experience live. Hawkins introduced his lead guitarist bro Dan thusly, "I was in the womb and he must have been next to me. It just took him like a year longer to come out." Justin would often trade licks and double up twin lead harmonies with his brother and longtime bandmate.
As experts of their craft, the Darkness combine so many styles of metal it can often be overwhelming but always gratifying. Jumping up on the drum riser for an extended head stand and later atop the speakers Hawkins is most impressive distributing his energy with the microphone often channeling the likes of Robert Plant and Rob Halford through "Friday Night" and "Living Each Day Blind."
Hawkins would further astound while pelvically thrusting his guitar along the stage monitors creating a harmoic squall with the instrument and ultimately lead the crowd in hand-clapping, waving side to side and call and response sing-alongs. Despite the unifying efforts, there appeared to be a scuffle or two in the sweaty and amped-up audience.
With "Givin' Up" and "Stuck in a Rut," the Darkness continued to exert their reverberating melodies, guitar and physical acrobatics up through the money shot of the night. "This is our big international hit. If you don't stand up, sing along and raise your fists, we're never coming back!" Hawkins warned as the band kicked in a hyper-charged "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" before leaving the stage and the crowd begging for more.