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The Darkness - Electric Ballroom, London - November 13 2013 (Live Review)

Friday, 15 November 2013 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Darklings, the ever-faithful, ever-fluctuating fanbase of the Darkness, are strewn across the streets of Camden on this chilly winter's night. Having been chewed up and spat out by the evil British press, it’s easy to assume that the band's popularity is at a something of a low ebb. It’s not.

This is the second of two sold out London gigs at the Electric Ballroom and the band are playing their stone-cold classic debut, 'Permission To Land', in full. Everyone and their mum is here, quite literally. Among the crowd there's a middle aged woman and her mum, deck chair out and picnic unpacked, ready for a rock 'n' roll onslaught.

Despite looking like they came straight from Macklemore's Thrift Shop video, the River 68 do a fine job of whetting the crowd's appetite for THE ROCK.

They're just two guys playing acoustic guitar with a harmonica and a bass drum, but they're bloody brilliant. Gorgeous vocal harmonies pepper their set, branding their tunes as a mutant crossover between Led Zeppelin and ballsy folk.

The main support act, LostAlone, don't fare so well. Their zany brand of rock is genuinely enthralling on disc, but some of the punters don't really engage with lead vocalist/six-stringer Steven Battelle.

His technical ability is superb, but his stage banter is somewhat grating. Nevertheless, new tunes like The Bells! The Bells!! suggest that we're going to be seeing them back on tour very soon, possibly even headlining this very same venue. With tunes this good, it'll be a crime if they don't.

The evening's previous musical pleasantries are soon forgotten when Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town booms from the P.A system, soon followed by new demo track Second Fiddle. As it plays, the Darkness march on stage, joining hands and staring into the sea of bodies. Clad respectively in leather, catsuit, weird gown and vest top, each member casts a unique shadow.

The superb swagger of Makin' Out is, by any band's standards, an absolute gem and its inclusion at the top of the set shows what sort of evening this is. They're playing a b-side, and everyone's singing along. The first half of the set comprises rarities, interspersed with tunes from the band's second and third studio efforts, 'One Way Ticket To Hell... And Back' and 'Hot Cakes'.

Frontman Justin Hawkins somehow looks younger than he did 10 years ago, his tenor wail remaining pitch perfect throughout the entirety of the night. His glorious cry of 'Suck my cock!' on Every Inch Of You is an early set highlight, as is the surprisingly heavy new song aired, The Horn.

Hawkins is the archetypal rock frontman and a bit more. He’s a big ball of sex, attitude and gritty musicianship rolled into one. While joking through most of the night (kissing his guitar technician and doing headstands), the man takes no shit. At one point he accosts a silly bloke who tells him to 'play the Christmas song'.

And so, to 'Permission To Land'. A classic album, make a note of it. Ten tracks of absolute, unadulterated rock 'n' roll excess. After a cheeky costume change, it's no surprise that the audience goes every shade of batshit mental when Dan Hawkins strides on stage, clad in a white suit, and bashes into the opening riff of Black Shuck.

Justin didn't even have to sing - every word was shouted right back at him. Tunes like I Believe In A Thing Called Love and Get Your Hands Off My Woman are pure gold, and the band knows it. They grin ear-to-ear all the way through. This is not just a gig – this is a celebration.

Following the closing chords of the epic ballad Holding My Own, the band left for a short break, returning in Christmas attire. A choir of kids isn’t required. The audience is more than willing to fill in for Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End).

The Darkness will never again achieve the obscene levels of critical and commercial success they attained at the beginning of the century. They will never win back the closed minds of the journalists who shunned them long ago. No matter. There isn’t a word count anywhere that can properly explain just how good 'Permission To Land' sounds when played live, front to back.

The Darkness UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows

Fri November 15 2013 - BATH Bath Pavilion
Sat November 16 2013 - PLYMOUTH Plymouth Uni Students Union
Sun November 17 2013 - CARDIFF Cardiff University Students Union
Tue November 19 2013 - BUCKLEY Tivoli
Wed November 20 2013 - KILMARNOCK Grand Hall
Thu November 21 2013 - INVERNESS The Ironworks
Sat November 23 2013 - BELFAST The Limelight
Sun November 24 2013 - DUBLIN Olympia Theatre
Tue November 26 2013 - LINCOLN Engine Shed
Wed November 27 2013 - MIDDLESBROUGH The Middlesbrough Empire
Thu November 28 2013 - WEST YORKSHIRE The Picturedrome
Fri November 29 2013 - SCUNTHORPE Baths Hall
Sun December 01 2013 - PRESTON 53 Degrees
Mon December 02 2013 - WOLVERHAMPTON Wulfrun Hall
Tue December 03 2013 - LEAMINGTON SPA Leamington Spa Assembly
Fri December 06 2013 - PORTSMOUTH Portsmouth Pyramids
Sat December 07 2013 - BRIGHTON Brighton Concorde 2
Sun December 08 2013 - FOLKESTONE Leas Cliff Hall
Tue December 10 2013 - SALISBURY Salisbury City Hall
Wed December 11 2013 - DORKING Dorking Halls
Thu December 12 2013 - OXFORD O2 Academy Oxford
Sat December 14 2013 - NORTHAMPTON Roadmender
Sun December 15 2013 - LEICESTER O2 Academy Leicester
Mon December 16 2013 - NORWICH UEA
Wed December 18 2013 - LOWESTOFT The Aquarium
Thu December 19 2013 - LOWESTOFT The Aquarium

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