10.6.2024 Shiraz Lane & The Darkness @ Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki

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It’s been well over 15 years since I last saw THE DARKNESS headlining a show, so it was high time to fix that. Thankfully, the English rock band made their way to Finland during a summer tour, arriving at Kulttuuritalo in Helsinki on June 10th, 2024. We were thrilled to hear that our local hard rock heroes, SHIRAZ LANE, were opening for the band. With two dynamic acts in one night, we had double the reason to be there.

SHIRAZ LANE kicked off sharply at 20:00. Admittedly, it had been a while since I’d seen them live, with their show at Tavastia being the last time I made an effort to catch them. Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, but life just got busy. Perhaps that’s why I was so pleasantly surprised by their energy. SHIRAZ LANE has always gone absolutely bonkers on stage, but this time, they had somehow upped the ante. They had a killer setlist that perfectly suited the evening, starting with the high-octane “Tidal Wave,” which immediately electrified the audience. “Broken Into Pieces” was a standout, with Hannes Kett delivering a top-notch vocal performance. They rounded out the setlist with hits like “Harder to Breathe” and “To the Moon & Back,” leaving the crowd buzzing and ready for more.

Then, it was finally time for THE DARKNESS. I’ve been following this band ever since they released “Permission to Land,” and back in Belgium, they were huge. After seeing them in 2006 in Brussels, I realized they must be one of the greatest rock bands in history, especially due to their live energy. Frontman Justin Hawkins‘ stage antics are unparalleled and quite unique. Seeing them at Kulttuuritalo, I was curious to see how they would fare with a typically reserved Finnish audience. The band kicked off their set with “Black Shuck,” a real banger to start the evening, and quickly followed with “Get Your Hands Off My Woman.” It became clear that THE DARKNESS would mainly focus on their “Permission to Land” material rather than their latest album, “Motorheart,” which was a pleasant surprise. Not that I don’t like the newer material, but that debut record is simply gold. They did play the title track of “Motorheart,” which sounded fantastic live.

Justin‘s banter between songs was as hilarious and random as ever. One of the best moments was when he talked about SHIRAZ LANE and dedicated “Solid Gold” to them. The interaction with fans at the start of “Barbarian” was pretty funny; he began the intro seriously, but some fans started laughing, so he called them out. He had to restart the intro a few times, but in the end, they played through the song with their signature energy.

When they started playing “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” Justin Hawkins stopped the band right before the first chorus and demanded one song without any phones in the air. I do feel there should be a rule about this, as there were quite a lot of phones up. People cheered, but I don’t think they learned a valuable lesson. After their biggest hit, the band disappeared, and something unusual happened: someone started singing “Olé, olé, olé,” and the crowd joined in. Eventually, the band came back, asking which songs we wanted to hear. There was a debate between “The Christmas Song” and “Love on the Rocks With No Ice.” Although it seemed “Love on the Rocks With No Ice” won, they teased us with a snippet of “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” before launching into “Love on the Rocks With No Ice.” This was a brilliant end to an evening of laughter and pure hard rock music.

The last few weeks had been quite stressful, so it was nice to shut off my mind and just enjoy the moment. THE DARKNESS is the perfect band for that, even though I had forgotten. Hopefully, we’ll see them more often in Finland in the future!

Text and photos by Laureline Tilkin

Setlist

  1. Black Shuck
  2. Get Your Hands Off My Woman
  3. Growing on Me
  4. Motorheart
  5. One Way Ticket
  6. Givin’ Up
  7. Japanese Prisoner of Love
  8. Love Is Only a Feeling
  9. Solid Gold
  10. Heart Explodes
  11. Barbarian
  12. Friday Night
  13. Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin cover) (Partial)
  14. I Believe in a Thing Called Love (Song restarted because Justin didn’t want to see any phones in the air)
  15. Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End) (Snippet) (Encore)
  16. Love on the Rocks With No Ice (Encore)