Glam rockers THE DARKNESS came through Helsinki on February 20th, 2013, for the first time since Lady Gaga’s Born This Way tour back in August 2012. For those fans who didn’t want to shell out the prices to see Gaga at Hartwall, this was an great opportunity to see the band headlining in the more intimate setting of The Circus, and the mid-week show didn’t seem to prevent many people from coming to check it out. For anyone who had lost all hope for the chance of seeing THE DARKNESS live after Justin Hawkins’ departure back in 2006 and the band’s subsequent break-up, it was a real thrill to get a second chance to see something that rumors had always claimed would be incredible!
Due to some holdups in set-up and sound check, the show got started about 20 minutes late. However, the appearance of Justin Hawkins in his black-and-white-striped skin-tight suit, unzipped down to the very lowest it could be without turning R-rated was enough to make anyone forget that the show was delayed. While younger brother, Dan Hawkins, and drummer, Ed Graham, had more traditional old-rocker style, bassist Frankie Poullain upheld the hair-metal image with his bandana afro and shiny jacket. And who can go onstage for a glam show without some Ray Ban-style sunglasses?
They opened the show with “Every Inch of You,” which is always a good choice – nothing gets a crowd riled up like shouting, “Suck my cock!” at the beginning of a set. With everyone sufficiently hyped up on Hawkins’ vocals and the high-energy music, it became evident that some of the crowd was hoping for exactly what came next: “Black Shuck” played loud and clear, the first track off their debut album, about an enigmatic black dog thought to lurk about the coast of East Anglia in English folklore.
The setlist, as a whole, was focused mainly on the new and the old, leaving out their second album almost entirely. Alongside “Black Shuck,” they also included old favorites from “Permission to Land,” like “Growing on Me” and everyone’s favorite, “Get Your Hands Off My Woman.” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us,” and a really exceptional cover of RADIOHEAD’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” were heard from the latest album, “Hot Cakes.” There could have been a few more songs from “One Way Ticket,” however. It would’ve been nice to hear “Girlfriend” or “Is it Just Me,” but you can’t win them all. At least they let us have the title track, “One Way Ticket to Hell (and Back)”!
Justin Hawkins was the real attraction on stage. If there were any concerns about what his performance could be like, with his history of drug problems and rumors that his voice had failed, they were washed away in the very first track. His stage persona was somewhere between the exuberance of Freddie Mercury in his prime, and the cocksure struts of a young Mick Jagger. With pitch-perfect vocals and high kicks that would make most girls envious, he was deadly on stage. All-in-all, with his new curly mustache and goatee, abundant tattoos, and piercings, he was a sight that everyone should see at least once.
The band as a whole had a first-rate vibe on stage. They have a connection you would hope to see from a group who has parted ways for any number of reasons and come back together once again, to that original place where making music is fun. The energy was sky-high, the vocals were as wild as you would hope after hearing the songs on the album, and the cameras in the crowd were out, trying to snap every possible shot of Justin Hawkins leaping about. It seems like half the crowd managed to grab the guitar picks that Hawkins was tossing into the crowd, occasionally kicking them or bouncing them off his feet or knees before sending them into the open arms of a hopeful fan.
The show came to an explosive conclusion during the encore, when Dan Hawkins put down his guitar so he could pick up Justin Hawkins and carry him around the crowd during “Love on the Rocks with No Ice.” A risky move, what with a room full of screaming fans, but it definitely showed a level of dedication and connection to the crowd, and the response was unreal. There is always danger in such things, but the Hawkins brothers pulled it off and there was a definite buzz about the unforgettable encore when the crowds began to fade away after the show.
If anyone out there decided to skip this show for one reason or another, it was a big mistake. Between the look, the sound, and Hawkins’ unreal vocals, as well as the encore, THE DARKNESS left Helsinki with a show that will most definitely be etched into many people’s minds forever. It was clear why they have often been considered one of the best live acts of this era.
1. Every Inch of You
2. Black Shuck
3. Growing on Me
4. She’s Just a Girl, Eddie
5. One Way Ticket
6. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us
7. Get Your Hands Off My Woman
8. Love is Only a Feeling
9. Friday Night
11. How Dare You Call This Love
12. Givin’ Up
13. Stuck in a Rut
14. I Believe in a Thing Called Love
15. The Best of Me (encore)
16. Street Spirit (Fade Out) (encore)
17. Love on the Rocks with No Ice (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Interview with Vola — “At this point, we just felt like writing something heavy again, more streamlined.”