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Review Sun Feb 12 2012

Review: The Darkness @ Metro, 2/11

When the Darkness arrived on the scene in 2003, a common question among casual listeners and even industry folks was, "Are they for real?" With songs that sounded 30 years old and a look to match, it wasn't hard to see why some people were skeptical from the start. Music and fashion popularity may be cyclical, but the Darkness' supposed schtick wasn't in line with the mainstream. Their homages to the hard rock and metal of the 70s and 80s even came across with a wink and a smile. NME lauded them, especially their live performances, and that fervor carried across the pond where people continued to ask, "Are they for real?" But the more important question is always, "Are they good?" After last night, it'd be hard to say no.

Following a hiatus on the heels of a less than successful sophomore album, the Darkness are back. They played a sold out Metro on Saturday where the crowd consisted of all types from the diehards catching multiple shows (of a static set list) to the reluctant significant others who caved in to hype. Singer and guitarist Justin Hawkins emerged on stage with Snidely Whiplashesque facial hair and a red, white and blue vest with matching pants. (His trademark open-chest unitard followed midway through the set.) Over the first few songs, he gave the crowd a hint of his excellent vocal range - from numerous high notes to exaggerated wails. But it was on a cover of Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" where Hawkins' vocals really rose for the occasion when he belted out the chorus. A 10-minute "Love On the Rocks With No Ice" also featured his impressive falsetto at its best. His and brother Dan's guitaring was top-notch, taking us to riff city and harking back to solos that're only imaginable in hair metal. You see, underneath all of the ridiculous hype, their debut album Permission to Land actually is a pretty rich music product instead of the expected schlock rock. But it's also tongue-in-cheek, like on "Get Your Hands Off My Woman" or, as it was re-titled by Hawkins toward some gentlemen in the audience, "Get Your Hands Out of My Grandmother's Wardrobe."

The promise of an entertaining live show certainly didn't fall short with handstands, jumpkicks, air splits and attire changes from Hawkins, who's clearly seen a lot of David Lee Roth and Freddie Mercury at their peaks. Through a 100-minute set (featuring all of Permission to Land and a slew of new songs), the band joked with each other, engaged the crowd and delivered the type of rock'n'roll show that's just plain exciting to be a part of. Between the busted relationships and substance abuse suffered by members of the Darkness, it seemed like a relief to just be able to play live for adoring fans again. (Speaking of fans, how did all of the rowdy folks end up on the right side? I saw numerous shoving matches and beer dumped on people who wouldn't step aside for stage rushers. But I also noticed wild exuberance, dancing and singing along to every song. It was even enough for Hawkins to comment. By comparison, the left side was dead.) Closing out the night, Hawkins played guitar on a victory lap around the floor on a security guard's shoulders and then took a dive from a PA stack into outstretched hands. Now, that's entertainment (and commitment).

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Joel / February 13, 2012 10:05 AM

A solid review -- I was at the show, and The Darkness was really great. But I'm a little surprised the reviewer didn't mention opener Foxy Shazam -- they were effing awesome. Phenomenal frontman, the band was really tight, and they were incredibly into it.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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