The Darkness / Charlotte, NC / 2004

On the opening date of the 2nd leg of their tour, the Darkness landed at the Grady Cole Center in Charlotte, NC and rocked the hell out of the place.  The band opened with the instrumental b-side “Bareback” before kicking things in high gear with “Black Shuck.”  They never backed down and simply assaulted the appreciative crowd with non-stop rock.  Occasionally lead singer Justin Hawkins would ditch his guitar and strut around the stage doing his best Freddie Mercury impression.  It’s tough to image, but Hawkins’ vocal histrionics sounded even more powerful live.  He led the crowd better than anyone I’ve ever seen.  Think Paul Stanley from KISS times 2 and you’ve just about got it.

Between songs, Hawkins would joke with the crowd and he frequently showed the crowd the scars on his stomach.  At one point, he told a story of how the doctor could tell him that he could never sing again, but he better not tell him he can’t dance.  This led beautifully into the hilarious song “Friday Night.”

The band played nearly every song on their debut album Permission to Land and even hit a few b-sides.  The crowd knew every word to every song and never hesitated to sing along.  They went crazy and lifted lighters when the band kicked into their current single and power ballad, “Love is Only a Feeling.”  However, this was nothing compared to the excitement created when Hawkins played the opening chords of “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.”  He playfully stopped the song and basked in the crowd’s energy.    The song built up to a clap-a-long frenzy with the crowd singing louder than the band.  That’s an impressive feat since this was the loudest show I’ve ever been to.

“Love on the Rocks With No Ice” was the final encore and was extended to allow Hawkins to ride on the shoulders of a roadie through the crowd while playing a guitar solo.

The Darkness is a band that you simply have to see live to properly understand.  They are single handedly trying to revive fun rock and roll and if this show is any indication, they are the right band to be leading that charge.  There is no one better.  They take every cliché and run wild with it.  The crowd is there tagging along for the ride.  Hopefully, The Darkness will be riding well into the future.