Review: The Darkness @ The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane)

The Darkness played The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane) on 7 February, 2024 - image © Bill Prendergast
Bill has a love of music (especially Australian), surf, photography, food and family. Favourite countries: Australia, Japan, Italy (in that order!). Favourite music genres: open to everything!

It's hard not to have high expectations of this line-up at Brisbane's Fortitude Music Hall.

The Darkness, the UK band famed for their live act, playing the album which broke them, supported by Australia's You Am I playing music from the incredible movie 'Spinal Tap'.

Two other supports, local legends DZ Deathrays and the emerging Cry Baby, are also onboard for this show (7 February) based around the 20-year anniversary of the seminal album for The Darkness, 'Permission To Land'. It's a classic album, with not a single bad song, so I was keen to watch the show to see how the band has evolved over 20 years.

The Darkness was founded by lead singer and guitarist Justin Hawkins who is a hyper-energetic character, with a pant-splitting leap, very reminiscent of Van Halen's David Lee Roth. Of course, there are wildly outrageous outfits and his incredible falsetto voice.

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The Darkness - image © Bill Prendergast

In terms of a label for the band, I think glam rock is where I landed in terms of the most suitable genre; others talk of prog-rock or metal, which are also consistent with the band's influences including AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake and Def Leppard which they mimic with a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek irreverence.

The Darkness set kicked off with one of the best-known hits off 'Permission To Land', 'Black Shuck' and moved quickly into what I thought was one of the highlights of the evening, 'Get Your Hands Off My Woman' which was fantastic!

Early in the piece, Hawkins was doing a handstand on the drum riser, raising and lowering his legs pilates style, in time with the music. 'Growing On Me' was next on the list keeping to the album's original tracklisting, and a great way for Hawkins to crank up his amazing falsetto voice.

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The Darkness - image © Bill Prendergast

The shirt was off by the fifth song, one song later than I'd expected, leaving Hawkins with only a shimmering pair of b+w spandex pants and his guitar; the top was hanging around his waist and by this stage he was drenched in sweat, such was the energy he was putting into the show.

He moved into 'Give It Up', which he noted refers to documented issues with drugs and alcohol, the crowd screaming the refrain and totally engaged in the show. While singing Hawkins had a range of onstage theatrics that kept the crowd engaged, this time flicking his guitar picks into the air and kicking them mid-air into the audience.

At this point, he thanked each of the support bands and moved into 'Stuck In A Rut', exchanging lyrics with the crowd, reminding me of an early Angus Young in terms of the form he took on the stage.

A few songs further in saw the addition of an acoustic guitar, but obviously the instrument made little difference over the rest of the band!

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The Darkness - image © Bill Prendergast

With the four members alone onstage again, the album's massive hit 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' was launched to the sheer delight of the crowd. Justin's brother, Dan, taking the first solo and Justin with the second – this is a highlight as the band heads off stage.

However, the interval was short-lived and there are yet further surprises ahead. The band return wearing the most bizarre (in a good way) outfits, comprising smoking jackets, boxer shorts, and slippers/ loafers.

As Justin introduces the band members, he comments on Frankie Poullain's love-making robe; Frankie has transitioned from bass to acoustic in this second set. Drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor and Dan have also changed roles, and the only reason we found out is the cover of a small portion of Phil Collins' 'In The Air Tonight', of which Dan plays the key drum piece!

All set for the final piece, and as advised "you all know what it is," they had switched back to their original instruments to perform a ten-minute version of 'Love On The Rocks With No Ice' – the final solo featuring Justin in the midst of the crowd on a bouncer's shoulders.

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The Darkness - image © Bill Prendergast

There would be one more bizarre twist. . . Justin was fooling around with his guitar, when he somehow lifted his left leg below the left arm, and above the guitar neck, and kept playing what turned out to be the riff of the great Led Zeppelin piece, 'Heartbreaker'. This was the true finale for a great show.

They had also earlier done a cover of Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song'; Hawkins' vocals would have made Robert Plant weep! Seeing 'Permission To Land' live gave me an even greater appreciation of the quality of these pieces and the album as a whole.

I had seen You Am I, the main support, a couple of months back in Brisbane, and of course they had put on an excellent show. The guys seem to tour relentlessly, and have a worthy back catalogue to ensure fans remain engaged.

You Am I
You Am I - image © Bill Prendergast

With the current tour, they're basing their set around the soundtrack for the ridiculous, but excellent 1984 movie 'This Is Spinal Tap'. I had a quick refresh on YouTube ahead of the concert, and the visuals and gags retain their quality. However even more so, the music!

You Am I came on in proper glam outfit, with bassist Andy Kent the highlight as Derek Smalls.

They kicked off the set with 'Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight' and worked through the hits, with the absolute highlight (of course) being 'Stonehenge' where guitarist Davey Lane took the narrative, really hamming it up with the druid's cloak over his head and microphone, and wound up the song with his mandolin.

Prior to You Am I, we were treated to an eight-song set by local band DZ Deathways, who we are later told have toured with The Darkness in Europe.

Super-energetic set from the guys, and lots of movement, especially from the bass player, Violent Soho's Luke Henery, who was a real presence onstage.

DZ Deathrays
DZ Deathrays - image © Bill Prendergast

Finally, I'd really love it if someone told me they were setting a band up with the aim of being a cover band for The Cure and Siouxsie And The Banshees.

Oh wait, that was the apparent aim of pop-punk duo Cry Club, who played the opening set. I loved their performance, outstanding movement and dance, and a really good selection of their catalogue including 'DFTM', 'Somehow (You Still Get To Me)', and 'People Like Me'. I loved this evening.

Cry Club
Cry Club - image © Bill Prendergast

It was a completely outrageous show, which I mean in the most positive terms. The Darkness wre outstanding, You Am I did not disappoint at all, and DZ Deathrays and Cry Club put on great shows.

It's great to see the bands coming through Australia, and reminds us how lucky we are with a vibrant music scene after the hiatus at the start of the current decade. Fantastic show, do not miss this if possible.

More photos from the show.

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