The charming excesses of The Darkness are very much alive and well.
Teetering on 20 years since their explosive, and self-deprecating, debut Permission to Land strutted into the public consciousness, the musical landscape has all but left rock music behind. However, that doesn’t mean it’s been forgotten. Grafting their appeal on the back of catsuits and studded guitar straps of arena rock, the city of Toronto has long embraced The Darkness with loving “devil horn” hand gestures.
Making a triumphant return to a sold-out Phoenix Concert Theatre, the British quartet dazzled their way through an 18 song set list beginning with Open Fire. From thereon, no less than nine tracks from their inaugural 2003 album were revisited. Lead singer Justin Hawkins, now 43 and scantily clad in a leopard leotard, remained remarkably nimble and utterly ridiculous, wielding guitar solos like there was no tomorrow. Transitioning from the underrated ballad Love is Only a Feeling to newer material such as Southern Train, Hawkins preened and posed like a resurrected Freddie Mercury, deploying his trademark screeching falsetto with a devilish grin.
Elsewhere, younger brother Dan Hawkins gave a muscular power chord performance on rhythm while bassist Frankie Poullain – glittering in gold blazer and larger-than-life afro – typified the quintessential wing man persona for the outlandish troupe. By night’s end, The Darkness approached the concert as if they were playing to a stadium of 20,000. Everything from fiery fretwork to uproarious crowd antics proved to be an exemplary antidote to the maudlin music that inundates today’s live venues. For Toronto fans, it truly was a thing called love.