Concert Review: The Darkness at Limelight 1, Belfast (23/11/2013)

BY LAURA SHIELDS

Following an indefinite hiatus in 2006, The Darkness reformed in 2011 and released Hot Cakes, their newest album to date. But rather than play this new material, the band announced they would be playing their classic debut album Permission to Land (2003) in its entirety on this tour.

Before all that though, Limelight 1 was filled with the sound of rock and roll as local band Mojo Fury kicking off the night (if you could call it “nighttime” at 6.30pm). The band play with vigour to an almost empty venue, due not to the quality of their music by any means, rather to the ridiculously early door times. I guess club nights must go on…They are followed by Lost Alone who remark on the fact that out of a 28-date tour across the UK and Ireland, this is the earliest time they have taken the stage. This results in lead singer/guitarist Steven Battelle leaving the stage to hustle the audience who were sparsely scattered throughout the venue to stage front and centre. Whatever gets results! Despite cutting in to their set, the desired affect is achieved and the band goes on with the show. Three part harmonies and a blue-haired singer sporting a Monsters University varsity jacket – what’s not to like?

The venue is significantly fuller by the time The Darkness take the stage, emerging in a theatrical fashion with all the tropes of 80’s glam rock, jumpsuits and all, for Justin Hawkins. A seven years break hasn’t changed his fashion sense or voice. That man really can hit those signature high notes live.

Their performance is energetic and tight and at the same time surprisingly down to earth despite the spacey looking outfits. Justin Hawkins talks to the crowd throughout the set, takes “selfies” and rants about how videoing concerts ruins them because, now get this, you “block the person behind you from seeing properly” and because it “annoys other concert goers”. Despite being genuinely annoyed, he remains playful and takes a photograph of his behind in protest for the perpetrator. Heck, the guy doesn’t even get angry when someone put their finger up his ass whilst he rides through the crowd on a soundman’s shoulders.

Asides from antics, the music is first class. Big hits like “One way ticket” and “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” unsurprisingly receive the biggest reactions. But it is the encore that’s really special. The band re-emerges in a third costume change of the night. A change that immediately informs the crowd of what is to come. Knitted jumpers and woolly hats and scarves can only mean one thing, it’s “Christmas Time”.

Before starting Permission to Land, the band listed off the numerous awards they won in 2006, one being Kerrang! award for best live band. Evidently seven years hasn’t changed their live status at all.

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