Tight pants, long hair, moustaches, falsetto and acrobatics abounded onstage Wednesday night at the 930 club. Freddie Mercury would have felt right at home. British glam-rock extravaganza The Darkness blended sex-appeal, silliness and virtuosity into a delicious pop explosion at their sold-out show. They were joined by outrageous openers Foxy Shazam.
Cincinnati rockers Foxy Shazam took to the stage with theatricality, lead singer Eric Nally swooping on draped in a black-sequined cape. (When he removed his cape to reveal his tight black pants and cropped leather jacket, combined with his Prince Valiant haircut he somehow looked to me like what Sonny Bono might have looked like as a member of The Ramones.)
Now it bears mentioning that I have kind of seen Foxy Shazam once before- they were openers at the god-awful trainwreck of a Hole show in 2010, but my mind has blurred that night out, in I think some kind of mild post-traumatic-stress thing. I guess their set was less memorable then, but believe me, Wednesday night was a different story. They were over-the-top energetic, raunchy, and awesome all at once. Singer Nally seemed part-acrobat- turning somersaults, cartwheels, sometimes perched atop his trumpeter’s knee, and even catapulted onto the shoulders of their guitarist during one song, gyrating and shooting invisible arrows from his invisible bow into the audience.
My favorite songs in their set were off of their new album, The Church of Rock and Roll, including “Holy Touch” and the super-sexy “I Like It.” Their album, which was released in January 2012, was produced by none other than Justin Hawkins, lead singer of The Darkness. During the last song of their set singer Nally repeated “Give these people something to remember,” a mantra, over and over. They surely did.
The Darkness made their grand entrance to a roar of applause, and started off their set with the full-on rock anthem “Black Shuck,” the opening track from their 2003 album Permission To Land. Singer Justin Hawkins did not disappoint, from his skin-tight leather American flag outfit (the first of 3 ensembles he wore) to his wailing falsettos, he and the rest of the band set the bar high from the very start, and the energy and theatrics only rocketed from there.
Their set was spectacular, they played over 20 songs, and covered most of their first two albums, as well as a few new songs from their upcoming release. It’s hard to pick high points from a set like this, but I’ll try. Bassist Frankie Poullain’s cowbell solo on “One Way Ticket To Hell” would have to make this list, showcasing not only his deft percussion skills, but the band’s sense of humor as well.
The set took a turn for the softer midway through with the band departing and Justin playing solo their slow ballad “Holding My Own” from their first album. When the band returned they quickly turned things around though, tearing into their epic sing-along “Love Is Only A Feeling.” Another high point for me was their almost unrecognizable hard-rock cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out).” They turned what was a quiet, beautiful melancholic song into a fist-pumping rock-fest. It worked, ok?
At one point in the night, singer Hawkins left the stage and was actually carried, by at least one 930 club bouncer, above the heads of the audience through the first floor of the club, and back onto the stage, all the while wailing away on his guitar and pausing only to give fist-bumps to lucky audience members, myself included. (I am not ashamed of my love for these guys, ok?) They ended their set with their beloved song “I Believe In A Thing Called Love,” after a drawn-out tease of the first chord by Hawkins on guitar, making the audience scream and beg for the song to be played. They came back for a short encore, and ended with the soaring “Love On The Rocks With No Ice.” The Darkness may have been gone from the scene for a while, but they are back in full force, and haven’t missed a beat. More, please!