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THE DARKNESS/ FOXY SHAZAM @ MANCHESTER ACADEMY, 13/11/11 - REVIEW BY CALLUM BARNES

There was once hope for hard rock fans. They were The Darkness and with their blend of the classic rock riff, mixed with soaring extravagant vocals, they were a big chance of the music of old getting a calling into the modern day mainstream. It all started off pretty good with the release of the first album "Permission To Land" and raving live reviews about the sheer quality of their performances began to reach peoples ears. 2003-2004 was probably "the golden days" in The Darkness' short career in which four long-time friends- Justin, his brother Dan, bassist Frankie and drummer Ed saw the world and took it by storm with ten differing rock n roll tracks which called up influences from glam rock, early metal and (well, a bit later) Christmas time. Then came the difficult second album, which I think most people are now agreeing in this case was "difficult". With Frankie Poullain leaving the band before they had completed the second record, the original qualities in the bands image was already down a member. By the end of this tour Justin had decided to leave and therefore without a vocalist, the band could cease to exist.

NOW. It is 2011. It is nearing the end of an exciting year for the band who announced their re-formation back in March. With rumours of a third record being confirmed by the band themselves, it would be a night of new and old and especially a particularly exciting one for those who were fans of the music these boys created from the very beginning. With offshoots like "Small Gods" and "Hot Rod" being put on hold, it is clear that the four original members once again realise that this is the REAL DEAL. This is the tour they get to prove their worth to the hounds of dedicated fans who have waited their return for more than five years. With the majority of tonight's audience definitely having a few years under their belts, its clear this is one for those who want to remember the good old days, and this is the closest they will get for a while. Opening act, USA's Foxy Shazam, are like Meatloaf on speed. Six bizarrely dressed musicians, fronted by a slimline madman in a catsuit proceed to blow the crowd away with piano-led rock n roll. A highlight for me was when the singer got on top of the lead guitarists shoulders- while he was playing a killer solo.

The lights dim and the intro music starts, in the form of Celtic instrumental music before the band take to the stage. Dan picks up his Gibson Les Paul and launches straight into the opening riff of "Black Shuck"- the opening number on the bands brilliant debut. The curtain falls, to reveal the drumkit with a cage around it and the drummer- and Justin. Hawkins smiles evilly at the crowd before sliding down a firemans pole and opening that famous mouth of his. "Black shuck, that dog don't give a fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!", he shrieks, the band never being one for subtle lyrics. During the course of the song, Justin strips down from a coat to a waistcoat, showing off his sleeves of tattoo's which have developed massively since the good ol' days. "WOOF!" Smoke billows from the sides of the stage- they're back and they want everyone possible to know it. Justin then collects his guitar from the side of the stage, takes in the crowds roaring applause and cranks out the opening riff to early single "Growing On Me"- a great move. This starts a mass sing-along of which is barely topped during the whole performance. The second album raises its head in the form of lead single "One Way Ticket (To Hell And Back)", a fairly mediocre studio track but live, its a beast among the rest of the material with a headbangers haven at every chorus.

 

Throughout the night a few new tracks are played from the upcoming third record- slated for a March/April 2012 release. "Cannonball" features a Dan-led riff in which Justin spends most of his time shrieking at the crowd in his trademark high tones, while "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us" is sure to be a comeback single for the fabulous four. "Get Your Hands Off My Woman" is a cue for the stage lights to turn venom green as Justin prowls around the stage, shouting insults at this monster who touched his golden girl "you cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunt, YEAH!" He grunts the last word, a sneer plastered across his face. Surprise entries in tonight's set are always around the next corner with the ballad "Friday Night" and the closing number. "Does anyone remember a song we did around 8 years ago, I think it was around Christmas time?" this is met with a monster cheer and "Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)" sends the band off to prepare for the encore. They come back on, with a costume change!

Hawkins is now wearing a catsuit with a furry spine while Dan is wearing his trademark "Thin Lizzy" t shirt. Original bassist, Frankie with his bandana and standard Gibson bass. Opening the final part of their set with instrumental "Bareback" from the "Growing On Me" single, this then transcends into a cover of the classic Queen track "Tie Your Mother Down" and from there the gigantic crowd pleasing "I Believe In A Thing Called Love". As Justin clambers through the crowd, playing an extended guitar solo on security's shoulders, and with fans baying to touch him, you can see in his face that this is where he wants to be right now. "Love On The Rocks With No Ice" comes to an abrupt close and the band stand at the front of the stage- arm in arm- and take a bow. Back in black- its The Darkness' time once again.

Review by Callum Barnes
Photos of The Darkness by Mel

Photo of Foxy Shazam by Sakura Zilla - www.rockphotographer.net