The Darkness bought their one-way ticket to hell and showed up at The Rave Hall in Milwaukee, WI. During the covid lockdowns, there were a few changes made. The venue changed the stage lighting, fixed the hardwood flooring(the flooring in the middle was formerly bowling lanes), and downsized the platforms for patrons to watch on. These small changes made it a perfect location for an all-time classic performance. The band is on the road touring in support of their fantastic new album “Motorheart” which was released in November of 2021. They represented that by opening the event with the track “Welcome Tae Glasgae” and sprinkling in “Motorheart” and “It’s Love, Jim.” The setlist covered every single album they have released except “Hot Cakes.” In fact, there were two songs they put into the setlist that I never thought they would perform, “Barbarian” and “Japanese Prisoner of Love.” It was a fantastic surprise.
Justin Hawkins is a treasure. As an avid fan of The Darkness and the “Justin Hawkins Rides Again” Youtube page, you would instantly recognize that he is a true and straightforward performer. Having no fear, he nailed falsetto after falsetto with his trademarked vocals. The man is a true definition of a showman. Every 70’s rock legend persona balled up into one incredible package. Adding multiple outfit changes to match the setlist, the attention most of the show was directed towards the superstar frontman. His incredible vocal talents were equaled by his dynamic guitar playing. While ripping solos he stood between the monitors on the edge of the stage or walked around smiling. He dispensed those sweet riffs casually through his collection of Gibsons. Hawkins was electric.
Next to Justin Hawkins, his brother, Dan Hawkins, is a fellow guitar ace. Donning a black leather jacket with a Thin Lizzy shirt exposed, he strummed and picked away at his Gibsons as also. Often he would take a few giant steps backward while playing and shoot a smile across the stage to bassist Frank Poullain. Hawkins often places one foot up on the monitor while delivering solid and full backing vocals. In his own right, Dan is one hell of a guitar player. He often laid out intricate riffs that intertwined smoothly with his brothers. The man is a true rocker in every sense of the word. He pours out pure energy with every swipe of the strings.
The aforementioned Poullain puts down the rumbling low end while moving around the right side of the stage. The slender bassist exudes classic rock vibes with his black leather garb, black-framed glasses, and small afro. His performance was entertaining as well. If you stood in front of him, he engaged with you in some form. He often smiles, points, and leans over the monitor. Perched on the drum riser, Rufus Taylor put his energetic drumming style on display. He often peered out through a gap between a crash cymbal and a small tom sharing glances with Poullain. The man has his own flare but obviously picked up his family’s genes.
There were a multitude of sing-alongs, especially if the song came off of the “Permission to Land” album. “Get Your Hand Off My Woman” had the entire crowd screaming and singing vocally as high as they could. Before they finished the song the tempo slowed down and Justin Hawkins told a story and spoke candidly with the crowd. He eventually sang the finale backed by a massive musical breakdown. They followed with the encore of “I Believe In A Thing Called Love.” The eruption created by the audience shook the room. Where I stood you could barely hear the band. The singing was deafening.
Perhaps the best moments were the constant crowd interactions in between songs. Justin engaged with individual fans often and cracked multiple jokes. At times it seemed like a stand-up act. He quipped and laughed about the dirt on top of a huge speaker that he grabbed only to get a small dap of hand sanitizer from his road crew. The room erupted in laughter. You couldn’t have asked for more fun. There were also wholesome moments that occurred. Hawkins engaged with an 8-year-old front and center with their parents. Throughout the show, the entire band interacted with the child rocking out. Throwing what seemed to be a few dozen guitar picks their way. Those moments were very neat to witness. They also threw out what seemed to be a bucket of guitar picks. If you were in the front few rows of people, you most definitely went home with a very cool souvenir.
All in all, this performance was an immeasurable masterpiece of rock music. The Darkness showcased why they’ve attained their legendary status as live performers. Easily, in the top concerts, I have ever attended. Since we have all returned from the covid lockouts, the performances have been fantastic, but it was hard to match the level of astonishment this night left me with. Thank You, The Darkness.
1. Welcome To Glasgae
2. One Way Ticket To Hell
3. Growing on Me
5. Open Fire
6. Solid Gold
7. Givin’ Up
8. It’s Love, Jim
9. Black Shuck
10. Heart Explodes
11. Friday Night
12. Love Is Only A Feeling
13. Japanese Prisoner of Love
15. Get Your Hands Off My Woman
16. I Believe In A Thing Called Love