CONCERT REVIEW: THE DARKNESS Landed Head First at Starland Ballroom, New Jersey (October 21st, 2023)

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Britain’s beloved hard rock band, The Darkness, are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their multi-platinum album, “Permission to Land”, with a global tour. Their North American trek kicked off on October 3rd in San Francisco and will wrap up on October 22nd in Washington, DC. Tonight is the band’s second to last show of the tour at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ.

From the moment our intergalactic heroes, Justin Hawkins [singer/guitarist], Dan Hawkins [guitar], Frankie Poullain [bass], and Rufus Taylor [drum], blasted onto the stage, it was all systems go, immediately demanding the crowd to keep up with their music and highly entertaining antics. It was fast, it was furious, and it was fun! It was a hybrid concert injected with some comedic stage play by the colorful Justin on the unsuspecting New Jersey audience. He joked about what animal Buffalo wings come from, the fine art of tease and release, and the challenges of playing some of their deep cuts, not from their musical difficulty, but the difficulty to listen to.

All kidding aside, The Darkness are incredibly polished in delivering a flawless show. Justin‘s voice genuinely embodies the spirit of the best commercial hard rock/melodic metal from years gone by and personifies the band’s legacy. Guitar-wise, he and Dan effortlessly wreaked havoc across some truly challenging guitar riffs and leads that are wild enough to transport you back to 2000. The brother’s unique ability to mix high-voltage rock, metal, and blues into their playing while slipping in double-entendre lyrical content has remained constant since the band’s inception. Dan‘s rock-solid rhythm riffage, string attack, and loud-yet-clean approach to leads help maximize note clarity and the dynamic range of their songs. It is why their solos are just as memorable as the melody of their lyrics. Frankie was dashingly dressed in his sequenced leisure suit and provided the rhythmic pulsing bass lines, while Rufus‘s thrusting drumming gave the songs their edge and bite.

From the onset of the show, it appeared as if the band would be playing the entire “Permission to Land” album in order, beginning to end, until they deviated to the surprise of fans with the first of two deep cuts, the bluesy raucousness of “The Best of Me” and “Making Out” which were initially bonus tracks on the Japanese deluxe edition of “Permission to Land”. They also delicately sprinkled two B-Sides throughout the set; “Curse of the Tollund Man” and “How Dare You Call This Love.” Your average run-of-the-mill The Darkness fan might have scratched their heads over the lack of familiarity with these tunes and how they fit into the set, but the die-hards were ecstatic.

These resurrected songs and many more are all available on their “Permission to Land… Again”, album/CD which came out on October 6th. All adventures, especially into unexplored territory, are often scary, but have no fear; our heroes delivered on the promise of playing all the adored songs off the album, like “Growing on Me,” “Love is More Than a Feeling,” and “Stuck in a Rut.” The feather in their cap, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” came near the end of the set, while the final frontier of encores was “I Love You 5 Times,” where the band performed in robes, some more overtly short than others, and switched instruments. They closed the night out with an extended version of “Love on the Rocks with No Ice” to the fans who were disappointed the night had to come to a close.

The Galaxy is The Darkness‘ pearl, and fans will always look forward to it when they land in New Jersey with or without permission!

THE DARKNESS Photo Gallery (Photos by Robert Cavuoto):


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