The Darkness at The Olympia Theatre on Sunday 24th November 2013
They say football is a game of two halves. Very rarely could such a thing be said of a live show but in Dublin on Sunday night, two halves of contrast performance was on offer. The Darkness have rolled back into town with the promise of ‘Permission To Land’ start to finish, something which evokes memories a decade old.
Sporting his classic lycra, Justin is looking shaggy and unkempt, from the new shaggy hair to the dodgy moustache. Frankie is sporting an impressive Phil Lynott-esque afro while Dan is in his trademark Thin Lizzy tee. To start, The Darkness are taking in an eight song set of pure self-indulgence filled with tracks outside of the ‘Permission To Land’ realm, and while this set is technically enjoyable it lacks a spark. From the selection of songs Is It Just Me and Street Spirit stand out before they finish with One Way Ticket (To Hell And Back), which starts with a cow bell descending from the sky for Frankie to pound out the intro. There was a strange moment where Ed is given a drum solo and extra drums are brought on slowly like hallowed items, and then the drum solo lasts all of five seconds.
That was the first half put to bed, The Darkness head backstage to recompose and have a team talk before tackling a far bigger proposition.
We start back again with an intro detailing the start and successes of the band. As four monologues are read out a different member steps out, ending with the tagline “How do I know, well, I’m Ed Graham,” with each member getting a turn in telling the band’s story since releasing their seminal album. Quite a journey it has been too. Now adorning costumes more in fitting with their image back in 2003, as Dan Hawkins takes the last intro, he cracks into Black Shuck and from this moment forward this game moves to new levels of excitement.
The crowd are full voice, the pit is hot, sweaty and bouncing around as Black Shuck, Get Your Hand Off My Woman and Growing On Me are trashed out with the band churning out all the tricks in their playbook. Playing to the crowd, sing and responses, Justin doing handstands in front of the drums and leading the crowd to clap using his legs. Dan sliding centre stage on his knees as he makes his guitar squeal for another solo. Justin performing vocal gymnastics with the crowd as they try pitch just like him. Love Is Only A Feeling is a particular highlight of the night with the crowd in full voice and Justin note perfect.
Justin climbs up on the speaker to give “Pete the thinker” in the box a plec to apologise for mocking his thoughtful pose while watching, “I shouldn’t make fun of you for how you’re watching the show, a Darkness show should be enjoyed any way you fuckin’ please”. As he climbs down he seems to break the mic and with it not working, proceeds to smash it to bits. Givin’ Up, Stuck In A Rut, Friday Night are all blasted out in quicktime before Justin, Frankie and Ed head into the crowd during Love On The Rocks riding on the shoulders, all playing as they are brought around the back and through the Dublin crowd. Dan takes over on drum duties and is more than able to hold his own.
We are treated to a one song encore, but everyone in the venue was hoping for it, Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) sparks the crowd back into full sing-along as we round off a fantastic evening. The show tonight started slowly, picked up pace just before the half-time break but burst into a new life as the rock and roll gem that is ‘Permission To Land’ was unleashed upon our ears. There is no band in the world like The Darkness and few albums as enjoyable to hear live start to finish as ‘Permission To Land’. From the opening bars of Black Shuck this gig was intense, passionate, entertaining and unique. Pure unadulterated fun.