The Darkness @ Metropolis Fremantle
w/ The Southern River Band
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Fans of The Darkness definitely believe in a thing called love. They also believe in glam rock, leopard print, and noodly guitars; all of which came together for a packed out show in Freo last night.
Both levels of Metros were heaving as The Southern River Band strutted on stage. Given the crowd reaction you could have mistaken them for headliners. People love SRB, and rightly so. Aside from being excellent musicians, they are excellent at being ‘rock stars’. It’s hard to take your eyes off frontman Cal Kramer, shirtless and wearing skin tight flares, shredding through guitar solos. A half hour set just didn’t seem long enough.
Arguably The Darkness are most famous for their first album Permission To Land and the somewhat gimmicky hits that came with it. But, since then they have been releasing albums semi-regularly, as recently as last year. It’s fair to say these albums haven’t been on the radar for a lot of people, except the dedicated fans, so when they chose to open with Rock and Roll Deserves to Die from their 2019 LP Easter is Cancelled it set the tone for the gig. We were in for a night that relied heavily on new(ish) material.
Taking away the cheese factor of their earliest releases, the band actually creates some pretty incredible rock songs with so many guitar noodles they could be sponsored by Maggi. Lead singer Justin Hawkins’ inimitable falsetto pays homage to the glam rock icons of the 70s, as does his wardrobe, and the whole group embody an era where the aesthetics were a key part of the performance. For outfit number one Hawkins was dressed in a bodysuit, chest bared, flanked by the band wearing all white. Outfit number two saw the white swapped out for retro lounge wear and smoking jackets, and a black lacy bodysuit for Hawkins. It’s all part of the spectacle, just like the smoke cannons and stadium style lighting.
Heavy Metal Lover was a definite standout amongst their recent songs, but after more than half an hour of unfamiliar tunes, Hawkins stepped onto his foldback speaker saying “you’ve waited a long time for a Permission To Land song haven’t you,” before launching into Growing On Me to rapturous screams from the crowd. It was the first massive singalong of the night. They revisited their debut a couple more times playing Love Is Only A Feeling and Givin’ Up, even working in a little While My Guitar Gently Weeps along the way. At one point Hawkins dived off stage for a little crowd surf. The punters frothed, grasping for him, and were all launching themselves any time a band member flung a guitar pick into the throng. Adoration levels for these dudes were at an all time high.
After an epic length set, the audience still wanted more and were chanting for encore after encore. The group’s first encore included Get Your Hands Off My Woman, which went nuts, but it was in their second and final encore they finally played I Believe In A Thing Called Love, which is still as loved now as it was in 2003. You get the feeling this song, and indeed that album, is an albatross around the band’s neck, but it was a perfect finale for eager punters before the house lights went up, revealing lots of sweaty bodies, spilt drinks and satisfied faces.
Photos by Stuart McKay