REVIEW: The Darkness at Terminal 5

By Paulette Safdieh

The rock band performed their latest album before a crowd of loyal NYC fans.

Photo Credit: The Darkness Facebook

Fans of The Darkness know what it means when the room goes black and Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” blasts through venue speakers. It means The Darkness is about the hit the stage and light it up with rock and roll, Gibson guitars and unzipped, leather jumpsuits.

Oct. 21 marked the second time this year that the British rockers passed through the city, and the first time they played tracks off their new album Hot Cakes (Aug. 2012)- their first release since reuniting last winter after a five-year hiatus (Listen here). Lead guitarist and vocalist Justin Hawkins jammed before a small crowd at Terminal 5 (tickets for the 3,000-seat venue didn’t sell out) with his brother and guitarist Dan Hawkins, drummer Ed Graham and bassist Frankie Poullain. Together they proved that their over-the-top, humorous approach to glam-rock hasn’t faded.

The band veered slightly from their go-to set list and kicked off the show with a new track, Every Inch of You. Although it felt slow and anti-climactic for an opener, the performance benefited from Justin’s signature falsetto that sounds even more high-pitched when sung live. The crowd cheered louder when they heard the first guitar notes of Black Shuck- the band’s usual opener- right after. Many people sang along to the lyrics of new songs like She’s Just a Girl Eddie and With a Woman, but it was older tracks like One Way Ticket to Hell that got the most applause. And the band seemed to have more fun playing those, too.

For new fans who first Googled the band after its Super Bowl commercial last February, The Darkness didn’t disappoint with their radio hit from 2003 (their only song to ever make it to FM radio), I Believe in a Thing Called Love. Loyal fans rejoiced at the encore performance of Hazel Eyes, a track from the band’s sophomore album and one that was skipped during the last New York show.

Despite the band’s rocky history with drugs and rumored internal fights, the bandmates’ chemistry on stage and connection with the audience felt engaging and authentic. At several times during the night, Justin pulled crowd members up on stage (most notably one man who took off his shirt, took Justin’s microphone and attempted his falsetto). The staging was simple- a few overheard lights and a black and white backdrop with the band’s logo. But Justin’s costumes- among them a pair of American flag leather pants- headstands and around-the-neck guitar swings didn’t require anything more.

Fans of slower tracks (and tracks with more profound lyrics than “Get your hands off of my woman, motherf—–,”) like Holding My Own, might have been disappointed that Justin didn’t return from one of his outrageous costume changes with an acoustic guitar in hand. Hawkins stuck with his white custom Gibson Les Paul throughout the show of up-beat, up-tempo tracks- what the band ultimately does best. The generous performance time of just under two hours allowed them to play eight out of 11 new tracks without neglecting fan favorites. They finished off the show with their signature live version of Love on the Rocks, complete with a 10-minute interlude where Justin crowd surfed with his guitar.

If only they chose an opening act to live up to their homage of British rock and roll. While pop-rock openers Sweetheart and Dirty Pearls were a big improvement from the lackluster Crown Jewel Defense that was booed off stage at the band’s February show at Irving Plaza, their performance didn’t compare to the gospel-rock of the flamboyant Foxy Shazam, a band that toured the U.K. with The Darkness last year.

The Darkness delivered a healthy mix of old and new music, along with the energetic theatrics and iconic sense of humor that fans hoped would shine through after their reunion.  So yes, the boys were certainly back in town.

The Darkness will make one other stop in the States at Los Angeles’s Club Nokia and will spend the winter months opening for Lady Gaga on her Born This Way Ball Tour in South America and Europe. For now, American fans can just hope to hear Thin Lizzy on the speakers again later in 2013.

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