Monday, October 22, 2012

The Darkness @ Terminal 5

The Darkness; Dirty Pearls; Sweetheart
@ Terminal 5
New York, NY - October 21, 2012

For once, I am glad to not have to justify avoiding the CMJ marathon in its entirety and instead choosing to see an act considered irrelevant. It's all part of the timeline in dating one's self, and also part of fighting the straw man I call "Stay Hip MacGillicudde". Unlike the last few times when things like this happened, I don't care to seek a remedy. It's that same sort of attitude that fuels the almighty Darkness.

Let's go back, shall we? A decade ago. Right in the midst of the retro rock revival, one band took the flag as representing the arena glam band set. And for a scene or sound curiously devoid of much in the way of Britishness, they were one of only a few bands to hail from England (the others being the imploding Libertines and if you remember them, the excellent 22-20's who I discovered after the fact). The immediate fear, if you saw them before you heard them, was that the Darkness were going to be hair band revivalists - the one defunct rock sound that did not need to come back in any way whatsoever. Fortunately, if you heard them first, you knew it was the best of Queen meeting the rock ethic of AC/DC. Maybe a little Sweet or Slade thrown in. Even a slight dash of the Damned.

And oh what a backlash! From all sides. Many of the elite classicists saw this for what it really did seem to be: novelty farce. And of course the mainstreamers - then in the throes of the Linkin Park/Limp Bizkit sound - hated the Darkness for being happy and friendly and melodic (the boys once told a story - probably apocryphal - of being confronted by the lead dude from Staind who chastised them because music is "supposed to make people cry"). The one thing that seemed to unite all those who found the Darkness vile was that there was no place for falsetto singing anymore. I would generally agree with that, except that when the falsetto is a middle finger fronting three chord riffs forged like Hephaestus himself was welding the instruments, then this is truly a right royal wonderful thing.

A decade later, I regret nothing! Permission to Land remains one of my favorite albums of all time. The second Darkness record, One Way To Ticket to Hell, was half good. And I legitimately felt bad that the band broke up for a spell. My only regret was that I never got the chance to see them when they were "popular".

It was worth the wait. They played exactly as I hoped. They were the unit I wanted them to be. Justin Hawkins did all the frontman things I like. He and his brother played guitar just as I would have requested if I had the opportunity to take them for tea prior to show time.And maybe it's because I find the new record, Hot Cakes, excellent, that after several years of saying to myself (usually out loud on the train, eliciting stares) "I can't believe I still like the Darkness like they just came out", I now say "damn right I still like the Darkness and I don't care what you think" (though admittedly a few months ago I tried to portray this upcoming gig as merely a delayed rite of passage as opposed to what it really turned out to be - a long awaited dream damned come true).

Funny story - I remember when I bought Permission to Land. I bought it along with the first Jet album and the Star Spangles record. I never listened to Jet again after the first few months I had the album. I still listen to the Star Spangles record now and then, wishing things worked out better for that band. And the Darkness album...well, see above.

Dirty Pearls were a fitting opener. Gaudy, almost-slick, mindless 80's hard rock through a modern prism. But two things - 1. don't fake being a luddite when it is your one method of turning a profit and 2. if you have a ballad, don't play it until you figure out more than the first verse and the chorus.

I caught the last half of the last song of Sweetheart. I think I would have enjoyed them.


At October 22, 2012 at 6:06:00 PM EDT, Blogger Matt said...

The costume changes. They were awesome.

One thing Pennypacker said last night that he doesn't repro here, and it deserves to be, is how good the Hawkins boys, Ed, and Frankie are as players. They're brilliant. All the stops and starts, the riffing, the globetrotters can't happen unless you're REALLY good at what you do. I'm glad Justin dealt with his substance issues, or whatever happened with these guys. And. Per our discussion...there IS a Lowestoft FC.


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