When cocaine-fuelled wrong headedness first robbed us of the Darkness in 2006, the world undoubtedly became a poorer place. Despite the fact that the various warring parties (bassist Frankie Poullain aside) went to work on other, infinitely lesser projects (probably not even worthy of mention here) this was scant reward for the chilling possibility that we'd no longer be able to hear the team that brought us such sonic delights as 'Dinnerlady Arms' ever again in tandem.
Money talks, of course (or at the very least it focuses otherwise preoccupied minds), and so six years after the great schism the brothers Hawkins find themselves reconciled and ready to rock us like the proverbial hurricane. They take the ANU stage on a mild Thursday evening in May every inch the reconquering heroes, despite the fact the band has never trodden Canberran boards before, and proceed to deliver a blindingly entertaining set drawing from both their pre-split elpees as well as a smattering of new material, that, despite obviously suffering from a lack of familiarity does enough to suggest that the third Darkness album (which will apparently rejoice in the title 'Hot Cakes'), when it eventually emerges, will be a worthy successor to 'Permission To Land' and 'One Way Ticket To Hell... And Back'.
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But we're not worried about that tonight, we band of happy rockers assembled in front of the ANU stage come showtime. No, we are here to see whether Justin Hawkins' voice is as good live as we've heard rumoured, and to see whether they are as entertaining a band as legend decrees.
The answer to both questions is an unreserved yes, as the band crashes through high octane renditions of classics like 'Friday Night', 'Growing On Me', 'Love Is Only A Feeling' and 'Giving Up' in suitably exuberant style, rolling back the years to the early noughties with a fire and passion found surely lacking in many of today's contemporary 'rock' outfits.
Justin Hawkins' voice defies belief throughout, that storied, piercing falsetto hitting the target time and again, the pipes working in concert with a superior guitar technique that peels off solo after jaw dropping solo with an ease and grace that'll have left any viewing axe exponents left feeling sorely inadequate. His brother Dan is no slacker in this department either, though he keeps mainly to locking in the rhythmic punch with amusing four stringer Poullain and the oft-unsung rhythm machine that is drummer Ed Graham.
Hawkins seems a little reticent at first in his role as frontman, ignoring the crowd as the stage is plunged into darkness between songs, though after a couple of selections this shyness, real or perceived, dissipates and he strikes an easy rapport with the crowd that continues throughout the rest of the evening.
Effotlessly charming, he leads both band and audience through a celebration of all things eighties and hard rock, without ever slipping into the sort of hipster-pleasing post-modern irony that retro acts such as his always flirt with. This is no Steel Panther style comedy turn; The Darkness are a serious hard rock act that happens to possess a wicked sense of humour, and there's a gulf of difference between the two.
Whatever, such ultimately pointless philosophizing is rendered pointless when the band launches into a suitably crushing take on 'Love On The Rocks With No Ice' to round out proceedings tonight, the band exiting under cover of (natch) darkness in triumph and leaving the sweaty, slavering crowd baying for more. An unqualified triumph.
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