The Darkness last played Thebarton Theatre on their last Australian tour, so to see that they had downgraded slightly HQ wasn’t too much of a worry. If you’d seen them before, you’d known that they’re more than capable of putting on a brilliantly entertaining show regardless of the room. On a Friday night in Adelaide where there were sizeable shows happening throughout the city, it’d be accurate to say that The Darkness played to a decidedly smaller crowd than I had been expecting but all the same, the energy remained at a high level throughout the headline set.
Having hosted a fan meet and greet session at the Newmarket next door prior to doors opening, The Darkness brought this unique vibe into the main room – it felt like they were putting on a show for their nearest and dearest. This worked to APES advantage, providing the Ballarat natives a decent crowd to open up for on this, the first night of their national tour. It’s been a little while since I’d seen the boys, but man, they look comfortable on a larger stage like the one at HQ, that’s for sure. Having made a decent impact with well-received shows and releases since 2014 particularly, APES have continued to fashion themselves into a dynamic live act worthy of our attention. If you’re heading to see The Darkness at any of their remaining Australian dates, do be sure to head along early and check this band out.
As The Darkness emerge from the green room upstairs, the cheers are strong. With a new drummer in Rufus Taylor, the band is most definitely in a new phase, musically. There still exists that same outrageous and entertaining stage presence with the original three members, but there’s a new forceful energy that is undeniable when seeing them perform that is enough to quash any worries you’d have about the show. Justin Hawkins struts and cuts a lean, confident figure on stage throughout the night; whether he’s attempting to climb speaker stacks or shedding clothes (and then wearing items of clothes of audience members), the frontman ensured that everyone got a little bit of him before the night was out. Frankie Poullain and Dan Hawkins flanked Justin but weren’t shy in demonstrating their own striking personalities throughout the set either. Fans either side of the stage clamoured to the front, arms outstretched, hoping to get a passing touch of the guitarist and bassist. Sometimes they were rewarded with a sweaty high five or a plectrum and when they were unable to accommodate, Justin was there to provide.
The set itself was as rambunctious as you’d expect, with the likes of “Friday Night”, “One Way Ticket”, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” obviously standing out as great moments. The latest Darkness album Last of Our Kind translates well live too, “Barbarian” and “Roaring Waters” standing well out. Rufus Taylor’s talent isn’t squandered in the background behind the kit either; the 24 year old smashing away impressively and keeping up with the glamazon rock riffs being doled out by the Hawkins brothers up front. I’m sure he’s gotten the whole, ‘Well, when you’re the son of Roger Taylor,’ schtick much of his life but you can’t deny this guy has impressive music pedigree. He fits in to The Darkness fold incredibly well and you can see in the way the band bounces off each other throughout the set that this is a personnel line up that easily works.
While the show I remember they staged back in 2012 (I believe) was indeed bigger and more flashy, there was nothing wrong with The Darkness this time round. Having spoken with Justin ahead of the tour, he had admitted that their tour approach this time round was more focused – the band was heading to the territories where they knew they had strong fan bases as opposed to spreading themselves thin over multiple markets. As far as tour opening shows go, I don’t think they can be too disappointed with the enthusiasm the fans brought this time round.