As I walk up to the Royale’s door in Chinatown, Boston, MA, I see a group of people waiting in line to enter for the night’s concert: The Darkness.
As I come closer to the venue, I see it isn’t just a group of people, but an entire line, spanning the full block. As I walk past the line, all I hear are murmurs of excitement from everyone and sharing songs they hope to hear later in the night. I watch as everyone files into the venue with a happy anticipation.
I’ve lost track how many times I’ve checked to make sure this was the band’s actual name, and I’m honestly still not sure if I believe it. Not knowing what type of music to expect with the band name “Diarrhea Planet,” I’m fairly surprised and entertained by their garage punk sound. They’re like the pirate metal of hard rock, without the pirates. Energy explodes off the stage as they perform, from running across the stage, to playing guitar while laying on the floor, to climbing atop amps. As soon as the photographers leave the photo pit, the guitarist and bassist jump down to play while standing on the barricade, interacting with the crowd. I’ve never seen a band all look so happy to be on stage performing for a crowd. Even after their set, their happiness still lingers among everyone in the building.
As each member of The Darkness takes the stage, they proudly show off their glam rock attire (photos below). As soon as the music starts, the crowd belts out the lyrics along with the band. The band feeds off the crowd’s energy and vice versa, until everyone has a smile on their face.
After the second song, “Love is Only a Feeling,” the frontman, Justin Hawkins, asks the audience about yellow berets he’s been seeing everywhere. A beret finds its way to the stage, into Hawkins hands, and atop his head, “I’ve always kinda fancied myself a sort of mustard yellow revolutionary!”
By the close of the third song (“Southern Trains”), Hawkins admits he’s worried about getting hat hair on his “English mop,” choosing to leave the hat on for just one song more. Before jumping into “Black Shuck” the frontman welcomes the photographers to stay for an extra song, saying he won’t give out handshakes, but possibly a non-reciprocated lick of a limb may be okay. I don’t happen to see any of this limb-licking happen, but as we, the photographers, exit the photo pit, Hawkins pretends to fist bump each person, but switches to a handshake at the last moment, grabbing our fists, bringing laughs to each person.
Not long after “Black Shuck” the bands pauses for the “Plectrum Challenge,” as Hawkins attempts to get a guitar pick onto the top balcony, only resuming the show after he’s successful. The frontman admits that this Boston crowd is the most he’s ever seen a crowd get invest in the challenge, seems like the city’s living up to what it’s known for – passion and enthusiasm in everything.
Before putting on even more fans’ clothing articles (including a neon tank top, funky sunglasses, and a headband), he talks with a fan who he’s seen at a few other shows on the same tour, surely making the person’s night.
As soon as the band starts playing “Friday Night,” the entire crowd goes crazy, together yelling “Dancing on a friday night!” in response to Hawkins, as they, of course, dance all together.
In another conversation between band and audience, it’s discovered Boston is the second biggest show of the tour. Hawkins recalls all of his memories of playing in Boston previously, in humorous, purposely vague statements, like when “hung on the thing at Paradise (Rock Club)” or “fell at Paradise” or “that time at House of Blues.” He goes on, “You know you’re truly in love when you can have a moment of silence together,” and brings the room into a silence, ending in an armpit fart, bringing even more laughter and joy into the room.
As the show starts coming to a close, mid-song Hawkins stands on his head and claps with his feet, attracting the attention of every single pair of eyes in the room onto him to marvel.
Hawkins tells the crowd they’re at the part of the night where after they play one last song, they’ll return to their dressing room for “a little cry,” and depending on the crowd’s reaction, they return to play a few more songs. Sure enough, as soon as the band departs the stage, the audience begins clapping and chanting “let’s go Darkness!”
The reaction seems proves strong enough, as the band returns to stage as the on-stage lights dance from one side of the stage to the other and back as the band starts plating “Japanese Prisoner of Love.”
I’m standing at the back of the venue to watch The Darkness play their encore. Blue lights flood the crowd, who are waving their arms back and forth in the air. You know when you see wind go through tall grass fields and it looks like you’re looking into a sea? That’s exactly what the crowd looks like. Stunningly beautiful.
Again, Hawkins talks to the crowd, asking for words to describe the lovely night, answers range from “exceptional,” to “fucking amazing,” to “brilliant,” to “orgasmic.” He thanks the crowd for coming to see The Darkness, and playfully asks if the band should play one or two more songs. An overwhelming amount of recommendations to play three more songs arises, Jessie, the sound guy, insists there’s only time for two more, Hawkins (in fake New York accent) replies “Union guy, what’d I tell ya!” A Jessie chant breaks out, which Hawkins turns into a song, “so that counts as one song, two more?”
Before the final song, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” Hawkins makes a pact with the crowd, instructing them to bounce for the last song. Sure enough, the crowd spares no time to get off their feet, bouncing.
“Jessie has allowed us one more song,” Hawkins informs the crowd, leading to cheering from the crowd. The band closes the night out with “Love on the Rocks With No Ice,” as Hawkins hops on someone’s shoulders and rides the person around the entire crowd while impressively never missing a single note or word from the song. As Hawkins is out in the audience, the rest of the band toss out setlists and picks to the crowd, who happily grab the treasured items out of the air as memorabilia for the “exceptional,” “fucking amazing,” “brilliant,” and “orgasmic” night.
Seeing The Darkness perform a show in person was one of the coolest, most attention-grabbing concerts I’ve attended. The Darkness put on something more than just a concert – it’s an entire experience. I can’t help but recommend them to anybody looking for a fun, entertaining night out that’s sure to leave you smiling at the end of the night.
Show date: April 22, 2018
Review and photos by Shane Haley