Justin Hawkins is one of the most charismatic frontmen working the stage today. Surely, he would be easily as comfortable as a silver-tongued guest at the upcoming nuptials of Prince Harry or a freewheeling interloper in the seediest of bars. The singer and his band The Darkness deserve a lot of credit for a revived international interest in hard glam rock in the early years of this century, and they demonstrated their irrepressible talent in a brilliant show at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Tuesday.
Joining Justin, who plays a mean guitar in addition to singing, were his brother Dan Hawkins (guitar, backing vocals), Frankie Poullain (bass, backing vocals), and Rufus Tiger Taylor (drums). There remains beautiful symmetry in the recruitment of Rufus Tiger as the band’s new drummer. As the son of legendary drummer Roger Taylor of Queen, Rufus infuses spirit with flesh, given the band’s beautifully mad worship of Queen, the quintessential English glam metal rockers.
In October, The Darkness released Pinewood Smile, their fifth studio album and their first with Rufus Tiger, via Cooking Vinyl. While the band certainly played songs from the new album in their set, they dedicated half of the two-hour show to their debut album, the smashing Permission to Land. At the very end of the set, Justin announced the band would perform three songs in a row from the album, and then he danced and dazzled his way through “Stuck in a Rut,” “Get Your Hands Off My Woman,” and “Growing on Me.”
Full of vim and vigor, Justin couldn’t resist sparring with the audience, and the more-than-half full room responded to him with a mix of curiosity and delight. Justin’s rapport with his brother Dan was particularly tight, and the two could be hard rock’s answer to Penn and Teller with the jubilance and eloquence of Justin paired with the polite amused silence of Dan. At one point when people could not hear Justin’s voice to stage right, he blamed the massive speakers channeling Dan’s guitar.
“Let me show you!” Justin exclaimed. “My grandfather used to do this thing where he…” Dan played loud guitar music as Justin mouthed fake words. Music blared through the speakers. Dan stopped playing. “…and that’s how he died!”
Hijinks continued lyrically with songs from Pinewood Smile, which showcased The Darkness’ sense of humor over their earnesty. The band lampooned commuting early in the show with “Southern Trains” from the new album, and the gents had some fun with the idea of sex in prison with Japanese Prisoner of Love, which opened their encore.
Justin was especially full of beans as the show drew near a close, and he engaged the audience in singalongs prior to joining them physically in his now-classic bit where he played guitar while traveling around the room sitting on the shoulders of a bouncer. It is always a particularly impressive sight. The Darkness closed their show with the anthemic “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and the jam-worthy “Love on the Rocks with No Ice” from that much-adored debut album.
In an earlier moment of both sincerity and levity, Justin announced the release of the first live album by The Darkness, Live at Hammersmith, available on June 15. He read the announcement from a notice, wiped said notice across his butt, and gave it away to an eager member of the audience. “Will it be any good?” Justin retorted in response to an audience question. “It’s a live recording of a show by The Darkness. It will be awesome!”
If you want to catch an awesome show by The Darkness, see them tonight, April 27, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The English glam rockers wrap their current US leg of the Tour de Prance in Dallas on May 2. The Darkness will put a smile on your face and a spring in your step, and you’ll be singing their songs for days after the show.
Here are some pictures of The Darkness performing at Rams Head Live on April 24, 2018.