1,300,000. That’s the number of copies English rockers The Darkness sold of their debut album Permission To Land. Not only is that a lot of wax, it translates exponentially to an egregious amount of asses in seats at shows across the world and back again. Their song “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” – a track that fueled a large portion of those sales and brought in a lot of those asses -- was granted an award by ASCAP for being one of the most performed songs in America in 2005. The Darkness were for all intents and purposes HUGE.
But not in the hyper-genrefied music wasteland known as 2015. In a time where every genre has at least three sub-genres spawning by the time it takes you to view the latest cat gif, The Darkness’s T-Rex revisionism is more often than not seen as a nostalgia act, or even worse, a novelty. Despite having hit after hit, surviving pretty much ALL of the perils that rock and roll can sling at a band, people still ask questions like “I wonder what kind of crowd is gonna show up for this gig?”
The kind who came to fucking RAWWWWWWWWk, that’s who.
Through lineup changes, breakups, reunions, rehab, and more, brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins, along with bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham, have always exhibited an uncanny ability to craft iconic, anthemic rock songs. Even more uncanny is the way they bring those songs to life on stage, turning what in lesser hands might end up as just some revisionist reworking of the same formula followed by classic rockers T-Rex or Thin Lizzy, into a righteous exaltation of the power, majesty and pageantry of rock and roll and all of the promises it holds.
In a bit of rock and roll synergy, Washington, DC’s Wanted Man opened the show. Although generally a trio, frontman Kenny Pirog occasionally brings in sibling Anthony Pirog (go look him up...we’ll wait) in times of need, and clearly the bat signal was thrown for this set. Mixing punkabilly sensibility with a willingness to just flat out shred when called upon, the expanded group delivered a ferocious but brief opening set that left many audience members with jaws dropped, and ears ringing.
For a solid ninety minutes at the Fillmore Silver Spring in late October, The Darkness powered through their expected hits -- “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” launched a sea of devil horns deep enough for Ahab and his crew to sail -- while tracks “Barbarian” and “Mudslide” popped up off their 2015 release, Last Of Our Kind (self deprecating humor…CHECK!) to weave a set that celebrated the band’s entire catalog. It can’t be stated enough how much of a front man Justin Hawkins is and has always been. Whether he’s rocking a full leather American flag jumpsuit and a Snively Whiplash moustache, or sporting the more refined, sober look he’s adopted in 2015, Hawkins knows what the crowd wants and fulfills every rock and roll fantasy any audience member could dare to dream.
And ultimately that’s what any evening you chose to spend with The Darkness is about. Straight-from-the-crotch rock and roll isn’t dead, sleeping or a even locked away in a van cruising down some far off highway – it’s right where it’s always been, waiting for you to dim the lights, turn it up to eleven and let it take you away to Valhalla.