If rock & roll is an institution, you can lock me up and throw away the key, provided it’s in the same cell as with Justin Hawkins [vocals/guitar], Dan Hawkins [guitar], Frankie Poullain [bass], and Rufus Taylor‘s [drums]of The Darkness. Their performance at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, New Jersey, included more thrills, spins, and turns than a coaster ride!
The band is currently at the tail end of their 34-date North American tour promoting their latest album, “Motorheart,” released in November 2021.The Darkness are true rock believers, leading the charge to deliver slick, professional songs in a 90-minute set. No stage could contain the band’s energy and passionate performance, let alone the one at Asbury Lanes.
They kicked into overdrive with balls-out versions of “Welcome Tae Glasgae” from their most recent release, which set the mood for the show with its big rhythms and merry mayhem. They then delivered the best one-two punch in a Rock & Roll live performance with “One Way Ticket” and “Growing on Me.” Their set-list covered multiple songs from all their albums but focused primarily on songs from “Permission to Land.“ It was a testament to the band’s primal spirit, which drove these finely crafted songs. The band injected each track with electric intensity like on “Motorheart,” “Barbarian,” and “Givin’ Up.” Feeding off the crowd’s energy, they looked as if they were having the time of their lives.
The glam-saturated power rock lead singer of The Darkness, Justin is a natural entertainer; he jumped around the stage, oozing confidence and irreverent playfulness. Case in point, taking a fan’s cell photo and putting it down his pants or offering to lick a fans eyeball if they purchased a t-shirt. He is the complete package with his zeal and hair-whipping. Justin appears on stage with his white Gibson Les Paul and, to everyone’s surprise, with a more subdued look than usual. He was wearing white bell-bottom trousers, a white shirt, and a bolero tie versus his typical unitard, but by mid-set, he changed into a tan and white unitard with tassels, a look that most of his fans are accustomed to seeing him wear.
Dan wore a biker jacket and Thin Lizzy shirt, paying homage to his favorite band. He typically likes to lay low in the back of the stage by his amps, only moving forward to sing background vocals, but from time to time managed to shoehorn his way to the front of the stage past his older brother to take center stage for solos. Rufus provided tasteful fills and lively drumming, and Frankie on bass is the ambassador between the drums and guitar. He has a unique vigor and power to his playing but knows the balancing act of when to use it and when to entertain the audience. You have him to thank when you feel low-end kicking your ass.
The entire band has wide appeal due to their tremendous sense of humor, whether in their music, interviews, or videos. Those same moments fell in line with their wickedly entertaining bantering and posturing on stage. Before the show, I spoke with bassist Frankie to ask him how important it is to inject humor into their music and live performances? He replied, “When you go back into history, playfulness is very important in all art forms. If an art form is completely humorless, it is very hard to digest. If you think about The Beatles with all the documentaries that have been created about them, you can see they were always playful. There is a lot of humor in their music. Without it, a huge part of their appeal would be missing.”
To end the show, the band ripped through “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” giving the night the grandiose sendoff it deserved. The Darkness delivered an arena-rock show with intimate charm and charisma. The band continues to prove that Rock & Roll is alive and well, and their gift to fans was a shared experience of a well-executed live performance.