The Darkness at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Out of the fog and neon blue lights come The Darkness on the last leg of their UK tour at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and lead singer Justin Hawkins waltzes onto the stage – the perfect image of times past: a 70s rocker with flowing hair, bare tattooed chest and a skin-tight flared jumpsuit. Hawkins is a rolling ball of boundless positivity, and from the get-go he displays the buoyant charisma for which the band’s live shows have come to be known, from licking a guitar tech’s head to a shout out to the super-fans in the front row. This is a band that doesn’t shy away from their rock’n’roll persona, but they also see the funny side to it all.
They open with recent track Welcome Tae Glasgow, fresh off their latest Album Motorheart, which was released earlier in 2021. It’s a riotous, bass-thumping, drum-kicking, savage opener that kicks off the night, Hawkins’s trademark falsetto vocals subbed here for a deeper, aggressive baritone that rocks the ground beneath the listener.
The evening continues with several fan favourites, including One Way Ticket, Barbarian, Givin’ Up, and Get Your Hands off My Woman – during the last of which Hawkins rounds up his audience to clap along in unison, as he performs a mid-set handstand, wildly clapping his feet together in the air. For their biggest hit I Believe in a Thing Called Love, the band insist the crowd lower their phones and get to their feet. The lead singer demands their entire attention, and that’s what he gets as they enter an ecstatic stupor, his pitch-perfect vocal call ringing out in the hall.
There are some new offerings, such as the title track of Motorhearts, as well as Sticky Situations and Solid Gold, and while these latest tracks don’t tread new ground for the genre, it’s hard not to be swept up in it all. Carried by Hawkins’s endless charisma, the act is somewhere between physical comedy routine and classic rock show, chock full of power chords, flared jumpsuits and rapid-fire guitar solos.
The performance ends with a chorus of holiday cheer as drummer Rufus Taylor stumbles around the stage dressed as an inflatable Christmas tree, while the others follow suit in similar seasonal attire. After some impromptu covers of Wham’s Last Christmas, Mistletoe and Wine and Driving Home for Christmas, the lead singer calls out, “Enough arsing about, let’s do our one!” before they break out into their own winter hit, Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End), a universal favourite that closes the night on a festive note.
Photos: Nick Bennett
For further information and future events visit The Darkness’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Christmas Time here: