The 33rd Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held at Public Hall in Cleveland on Saturday night. Among the honorees this year was Bon Jovi, The Cars, The Moody Blues, Nina Simone, and Dire Straits.
As all the trophies were being passed out and long-winded speeches made, a very different rock show transpired some forty-five blocks away, where England’s The Darkness threw it down live on stage as part of its cheeky Tour de Prance.
So instead of merely pondering the meaning of rock ‘n’ roll and reflecting on its past with all the old-schoolers, critics, and suits, the Suffolk quartet lived it anew at the historic Agora, distilling the essence—that ribald, rebellious attitude—of rock into another hundred-minute onslaught that featured loud Les Paul guitars, banshee vocals, kooky costumes, and amusing acrobatics.
That’s because the group’s debut album—Permission to Land—yielded a string of ridiculously catchy (and gloriously glam) singles (and videos) that punched through all the mopey nu-metal and bubblegum pop of the day to captivate the hearts of fans long-starved for bombastic, fantastic, operatic rock a la David Bowie and Queen.
But 2005’s One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back failed to build upon the breakout success. Bassist Frankie Poullain stepped away, followed by Justin—who spent the next couple years overcoming substance abuse.
Justin returned in 2012 (as did original drummer Ed Graham) for solid comeback effort Hot Cakes, and hasn’t really looked back since. Now, with drummer Rufus Tiger Taylor (son of Queen's Roger Taylor) on the rostrum and Poullain pummeling his four-string, the Brothers Hawkins are hotter and higher than ever.
Musically speaking, that is.
The guys rolled out several new cuts from last year’s Pinewood Smile, such as the steamy “Southern Trains” and frisky “All the Pretty Girls.” But most of the evening was given to familiar fare from Permission, like “Love Is Only a Feeling,” “Black Shuck,” and “Givin’ Up.”
Ticket-holders at the recently-refurbished Agora had no complaints. Indeed, they song along most of the night and reciprocated the band's infectious energy, creating an enduring Darkness feedback loop.
Poofy-haired Poullain (in yellow satin, with the goatee and glasses) pumped a Thunderbird bass over Taylor’s titanic beats while Dan Hawkins churned gravelly guitar riffs from his Marshall amps. Brother Justin—clad in a leopard-print unitard—let loose his signature sing-screams on “All The Pretty Girls,” “Buccaneers of Hispaniola,” and “Barbarians” (the sole sample from 2015’s Last of Our Kind).
Justin strutted, preened, and stripped, yanking his jumpsuit to midriff to expose his torso’s worth of tattoos (with hometown Lowestoft scripted on his tummy). But he also tried on clothing proffered by the crowd, such as a barely-fits jacket top and a baseball cap. He helped his sibling in the guitar department, too (he played lots of leads, in fact) and executed a perfect handstand on Taylor’s drum riser late in the set.
Don’t try this at home, kids!
The athleticism certainly added to the band’s spirited, carefree performance and—to quote Justin—enhanced the gravitas of the whole affair.
Hot Cakes classic “Every Inch of You” eased into the new “Solid Gold,” setting up a three-part Permission climax of “Stuck in a Rut,” “Get Your Hands off My Woman,” and “Growing on Me.” For the electrifying encore, The Darkness boys blended new with old by unleashing their “Japanese Prisoner of Love” alongside early smashes “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and "Love On the Rocks."
Give it another ten years or so, and these chaps will be eligible for Rock Hall induction, too. There aren’t many other acts going who consistently sport this much genuine rock ‘n’ roll bonhomie on their sleeves.