British quartet The Darkness recently made a stop in Santa Ana at the Observatory, and blew the roof off the place! Led by the brothers, singer/guitarist Justin Hawkins and guitarist Dan Hawkins, they rocked a 16-song set, featuring a variety of rockers from their nearly 20-year career, to the delight of a sold out house. There is nothing like a good, sweaty rock show to pump some life into a normally sleepy Sunday OC evening, and The Darkness gave their fans exactly that.
Coming out of the gates to the sounds of “Welcome Tae Glasgae,” which sounds like a traditional Irish/Scottish folk song that literally explodes into a crunchy three-chord rocker, all eyes were on flamboyant singer Justin Hawkins. All evening long, he strutted across the stage, sporting a pinkish-red tailored cowboy outfit, frequently jumping off the risers in the front of the stage, all the while cranking out heavy guitar leads and projecting his bellowing, trademark falsetto vocals for all to hear.
He led the crowd in a variety of chants. “Give me a D!” and the crowd answered back, “D!” “Give me an Arkness!” He was even serenaded by the fans with a rousing “Happy Birthday,” even though it wasn’t for a few more days. Hawkins is – and has been – one of the most exciting front-men in rock, and his unpredictability and flamboyance has always been entertaining. During the evening, he even stood on his head on the drum riser and clapped his feet. Definitely not something that you see every day, but expect it at a Darkness show.
The solid heavy guitar sound of Dan Hawkins, and the fuzzy bass playing of Frankie Poullain, combined with the thunderous, driving beat of drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor lays a great foundation for the dynamic Justin Hawkins. Much Like AC/DC, their songs are simple, yet infectious. The sing-along “Open Fire” brings to mind the band The Cult. “It’s Love, Jim” was one of three songs performed from their latest release “Motorheart” and the most quintessential of power chords of “Black Shuck” brought this writer, and many others in the audience, to pump their fists and scream the words to the chorus without even thinking about it.
The band invited their guitar tech to join them on acoustic guitar for the bouncy “Heart Explodes.” Hawkins, by now wearing a skin-tight, open-chested and fringed gold-lame ensemble, led the audience to sing along in the wonderful “Friday Night” and they responded. The Darkness ended their set with one of their oldest hits, from 2003, the highly-charged “Get Your Hands off My Woman,” and the crowd erupted at the song’s end.
Returning to encore with their biggest hit, the catchy “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” also from their debut release of 2003, gave the audience the fitting cap to an exciting evening of entertainment. Hawkins, by now wearing black bikini briefs and a leather biker vest and hat, asked the audience to turn off their phones and dance. In this day and age where that request can be construed as an insult to a younger person, the audience actually gladly responded by turning them off and rocked out. The Darkness is, and will continue to be, one of the shining lights of the rock genre. Don’t miss them when they return.
Opening act “The Dead Deads” were very entertaining as well. This three-piece band of young ladies from Nashville “warmed up” the still arriving crowd with a great mixture of pop and punk, and even threw in an interesting cover of the Pink Floyd number “In the Flesh?” I see a nice future for this band. Look them up and check them out sometime.