As the government ban on large gatherings loomed over Australia, there was just enough time for Sydney to squeeze in a couple more shows before venues across the country closed their doors. One of these, fortunately, was The Darkness, who’s hard rockin’, high pitched 80s inspired tunes were the perfect, temporary antidote to otherwise dire times.
Though cautious of everyone’s wellbeing, the glammy guitars, bone-shattering bass and flying falsetto screams were an infectious distraction that had everyone dancing from the get go. There’s an element of novelty to The Darkness, sure, one that the band well and truly embraces with spandex onesies and white suits complete with major bell bottoms. But beneath the slightly silly exterior is a genuinely brilliant band, who’s throwback style feels right at home some 30 to 40 years after the decade that inspired it.
Their most recent effort, Easter Is Cancelled (the irony was not lost on anyone at the show), amps up the sheer scale of their sound while teetering on the edge of bombastic territory. Big riffs and even bigger melodies, it’s very much steeped in the arena rock spectacular sound, as opposed to the harder songs from their earlier albums.
In a somewhat bold move, they decided to start the show by playing it in full. Though the songs certainly live up to their predecessors’ standards, kicking things off with 40 minutes of new material did suck the energy out of the room. Though the die-hards at the front were screaming every word, more casual fans who had come to hear the hits had trouble holding interest. A show that should have started at 11 took a while to get going, and this could have been mitigated with a classic track between the new songs.
Nevertheless, their unrelenting showmanship that was overflowing with every classic rock pose in the book, was undeniably entertaining. So, it was a shame to see (or hear) subpar sound throughout the new songs too. Bass-heavy playback drowned out the nuance in Easter’s… melodic backbone, punching through in moments that didn’t need to be punched. Overall, the first half just felt a bit flat.
Then part two rolled in, and suddenly things really felt like a good old Darkness show. With back-to-back classics including “One Way Ticket,” “Love Is Only a Feeling,” and “Givin’ Up” blasting through the speakers, the amp finally hit 11 and everyone danced their cares away. The band busted out more stage antics much to the delight of Sydney who constantly let out a rock show roar, and frontman Justin Hawkins even said that Jack Daniels and Coke can “f**k off” after someone threw a tinnie on stage. Hard to argue with that.
The second half of the show just felt a lot more fun and energetic, though it seems a bit reductive to say that it’s because people only want to hear the old stuff. Easter is Cancelled is a great melodic rock record, but it seems that The Darkness are still working out the kinks in the stage version. Old songs are so engrained however, they’re basically muscle memory which gives the guys the freedom to really cut loose on stage. Well that, or in Hawkins’ case, lather up his face and neck in hand sanitiser, gifted by a fan in the front row. Hell, even the sound improved in the second half.
But the outcome, in any case, was the kind of ridiculous fun everyone needed in these trying times. Few bands hold a candle to The Darkness on stage, even when the cylinders may not be firing at full capacity. The fact is, the weird state of the world didn’t matter, because the show would have been fantastic with or without impending isolation bearing down on Sydney town.
The Darkness are always guaranteed to make you dance, sing and try to sing in glorious falsetto tones that you can’t quite hit, but then again neither can anyone else except Hawkins. They’re the ideal injection of fun that can light up any room, any time, anywhere. And god damn did they light up the Enmore Theatre when we needed it most.
Words and Images by Peter Zaluzny