Artists: The Darkness, The Dead Deads
Venue: The El Rey Theater
Date: March 15, 2022
Rock and roll was alive and kicking at the El Rey theater last Tuesday as Britain’s The Darkness finally made their return to the states (after a 2-year pandemic delay). Originally touring behind their album Easter is Canceled, the group spent their time off the road recording a new record, Motorheart, which they mixed a few selection from into their setlist of raucous, glam-metal hits.
Opening the show was hard-rocking trio The Dead Deads. These ladies came with loud fashion sense and banging riffs. While I wasn’t familiar with the group before the night (so I don’t know all the song titles from their setlist), I can definitely say I enjoyed their riotous opening track “Thinkers and Preyers”. The group showed it could go as heavy as any major band out there, but unlike many of them, could blend in some lovely harmonies (their song dedicated to those who died of Covid was a beautiful moment). The dark, melodic “Push Me” hit home as well, and “Deal With Me” was packed with attitude. The group were a perfect touring match for the night’s headliners.
The Darkness hit the stage and charged into things with the hard rocking “Welcome to Tae Glasgae”, setting the energy level for the night. They followed this with two big crowd-pleasers; “One Way Ticket” and “Growing on Me”. Both exuded what The Darkness does best; ebullient, glam-pop-metal sing-alongs that are purely fun.
When the band first hit the scene in the early 2000’s, they were considered a throwback to the days of Motley Crue and Poison, when big hair, shiny outfits and party rock n’ roll were all the rage. But there is far more to the band’s actual sound than those 80’s stadium acts. Justin Hawkins is able to wail like Robert Plant, with the same sense of showmanship as Freddie Mercury. And while the band can easily blast out tongue-in-cheek pop-metal gems like “Solid Gold” or “Givin’ Up”, both of which received enthusiastic applause from the audience who were game to sing-along, they can also dive into true, brutal hard rock. While “Motorheart” may or may not be paying homage to Motorhead, The Darkness clearly are indebted to those legends of UK hard rock in some of their pummeling riffs and rhythms.
Throughout the evening, Hawkins did a number of wardrobe changes, all of which were bombastic and increasingly revealing. And while Hawkins was the premiere showman, between handling the range of lead vocals as well as shredding out pristine guitar solos, his band was keenly game to kick up a ruckus. The guitarist head banged feverishly, while the bassist showed off some cow-bell chops, and provided interesting textures to the band’s sound. With Hawkins, the group performed a flawless synchronized jump off the drum stand to add to the rock n’ roll theatrics.
One of the night’s clear highlights was “Heart Explodes”. The epic anthem had the audience clapping in unison, while The Darkness‘ guitarist shredded out Thin Lizzy-level riffs, and the group’s guitar tech joined on acoustic. I was only sad that the band didn’t play Easter is Canceled‘s other perfect jam, “In Another Life”. The main set ended with a number of fiery rockers, including “Barbarian” and “Get Your Hands Off My Woman”, before the group took a short break. They then returned, with Hawkins in another absurd outfit, and with a plea to put phones away and get the audience bouncing. They then launched into their biggest hit “I Believe In a Thing Called Love”.
It was a night that brought an easy smile to everyone’s faces, from the 80 year old man in the very front, to the little kid wearing a Darkness t-shirt, who came on stage to applause as the band cleared off. Fun rock n’ roll is timeless, and thank goodness The Darkness are still out there carrying its torch for all generations.
If you’re not familiar with the band, here’s a playlist for you to start listening: