On Wednesday night, English rock band The Darkness brought their “Tour De Prance” tour to The Vogue Theatre in Vancouver. It was a night of high-octane rock, 70’s inspired outfits, and a super devoted crowd set on losing their minds.
Opening the show was American 6-piece garage-punk band Diarrhea Planet from Nashville, Tennessee. I walked in as they were just starting into their third song. I had no previous experience with this band but from the moment I saw them on stage I knew they were something special. Each of the group members seemed to be electrified by each other, feeding off their own energy and delivering that to the crowd, who quickly reciprocated it, creating that all-important symbiotic relationship.
I was amazed at the level of talent each musician displayed. So many guitarists working together to achieve this wall of beautiful sound. I was left in awe as they each took turns showcasing their talents.
They were also having such a great time, smiling and joking around. It just seemed like a group of best friends performing together, which added this contagious, uplifting energy. A highlight of their set was when a couple of the members climbed into the crowd, playing their guitars from on top of the very supportive, no pun intended, crowd.
I may not have known this band when I went into the show, but I left a fan. Diarrhea Planet is a band to seek out.
After a brief pause between acts, it was time for the main course.
It had been a few years since I’d seen the darkness. The last time I had seen them, they played the Commodore Ballroom, putting on an over-the-top show that had burned itself into my memory.
As the four-piece walked out on stage, the crowd erupted with screams.
Justin Hawkins, the lead of the band, stood front and center in his leopard-print outfit, A matching cape draped across his shoulders. He extended his arms to reveal a turquoise silk lining, making him look like a rock’n’roll royal. He smiled genuinely at the crowd. You could see the excitement strewed across his and the rest of the bands’ faces. They were excited, on a level maybe even equal to the crowd. My anticipatory energy doubled in that instant, I knew this would be a special night.
They started things off with “Open Fire” from their 2015 album Last Of Our kind.
The stage illuminated in a multi-coloured light show. Fast moving spotlights built a rich tapestry acting as a backdrop for the musicians.
Each member of the band worked their point on the stage.
On the left you had Dan Hawkins on guitar, he was mostly the calm cool, working closely to his mic, until it was time to shred a solo. Then he would lean in and let the guitar hang from his neck, his fingers blurring as he worked them up and down the frets. His playing was ferocious.
On the right you had Frankie Poullain on bass, he looked like a 70s funk lord. His epic afro glowing and his gold Lamé suit shimmering from the multitude of lights around him. He stalked the back of the stage like a lion with his Gibson Thunderbird in hand, holding back by the speaker stack until it was time to pounce forward and add vocals to the mic.
At the very back of the stage, you had Rufus Tiger Taylor, the drummer. He was buried behind a drum kit that seemed to have hundreds of pieces. You could see his face as he stared out at the crowd, his arms flying around, beating on those drums with purpose and drive. He may have been obscured from our view but you couldn’t be blind to the rhythmic heartbeat he added to each song and those well-timed exclamation points he added with those deep strikes.
Then, back at center, you had Mr. Hawkins, the lead singer. He is definitely the soul of this group. Very few front people can do what he does, he brings this contagious charisma that you can’t look away from. He hypnotizes you with his movements and his sound and his personality. He is a rock God, no doubt about it.
Now, I was at the show in two capacities; as a reviewer and as a photographer.
During our allotted time to photograph the band, each member took their time to pose for us and give us all the great angles we needed to get the shots we wanted, which was really nice of them. Many performers don’t interact with the photographers, and pretty much try to ignore them. As we went to leave the photo pit, Justin stopped us and asked security if we could stay for one more song. He promised something great and wanted us to be there to capture it. As a concert photographer for the last ten years, I can tell you that this is something that rarely if ever happens. I was excited.
The band delved into “Black Shuck” from their 2003 album Permission To Land. That crunchy opening anthemic rift pulsed through the air, as Hawkins’ infamous falsetto kicked in and carried along. The audience screamed out their best renditions in parallel, it became a beautiful but chaotic harmony, a near perfect moment in my mind.
Justin climbed up on the drum riser, standing under two spotlights, posing while he emoted each lyric. Then, as the song crescendoed, he launched himself into the air while kicking out into the splits. Not bad for a man who just turned 43. Hell, not bad for a person half his age.
The show rolled on, climbing in intensity.
Each member of the band glistening under the lights but never pulling back. They worked hard and delivered a solid set. It may be a cliche, but they left it all out there.
They finished the night with their most iconic song, “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”, another track from their 2003 release. Things went up one last notch, which I didn’t think was possible but in the epic words of Spinal Tap, I guess “these go to eleven”. The entire venue lost their collective minds. A stream of crowd surfers rolled around on the outstretched hands of their comrades, a sea of fists pumped emphatically in the air, and everyone was singing along.
Just a wonderful moment, making for such a memorable night.
I have been to hundreds of concerts and this one will sit up there in the upper echelons as one of my favourites.
The Darkness, at one point in their career, were not taken too seriously. They were considered an overreaching clone of a time lost, but I can attest to how wrong that is.
There return to Vancouver was triumphant, proving they are at the top of their game.
This band is the real deal and if you miss them when they come to your town, you are making a mistake.
Get out there and see The Darkness, they will blow your fucking mind.