The Darkness (w/ Crown Jewel Defense and Fox Shazam) 02/19/12
House of Blues – West Hollywood, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
I have a shocking confession to make. For a brief period in time I lied and claimed I had seen The Darkness when they played at The Roxy. It was silly I know, but I just wanted to be cool. By dumb luck I was out of town when The Darkness returned and played the Fonda and then they broke up and my dream of seeing The Darkness live was all but crushed. So I lied. Thank God for reunion tours. You know I was online the second their House of Blues West Hollywood President’s Day Weekend Throwdown went on sale. I had missed the group twice; I was not going to miss them for a third time.
The evening started with a group called Crown Jewel Defense. While I wouldn’t say they were good, I will say they were the perfect openers for this tour. The band had the look – bad spandex, synchronized hair flips and screeching guitars. The groups’ music reminded me of what Saigon Kick would have sounded like after a decade that featured unoriginal ass clowns like Godsmack and Disturbed selling a ton of records. Nothing special, in fact some of the songs were cringe-worthy. Yet that didn’t really matter because the band was having fun performing to a very full floor of rock and roll enthusiasts. The highlight of their set was being smart enough to throw plenty of free promotional gear into the crowd. No matter how bad your music is people love free shit and it’s hard to hate any band who can take out a hipster by hitting them upside the head with a t-shirt.
Up next on this particular evening was Foxy Shazam. My knowledge of the Cincinnati Ohio based rockers walking into the show was my 7 inch single of “Wanna-Be-Angel” and recent confessions from the likes of Jay Porks and BeeZnutZ. Within seconds of hitting the stage I was drinking the Foxy Kool-Aid and ready to tell everyone just how great they are. This band is pure energy. I can only imagine the bruises on lead singers Eric Sean Nally’s body from the way he abuses himself in the name of rocking roll. From somersaults and random drops to his knees to crashing into the drum set watching command the man command the stage is a lot like watching an episode of Jackass.
The groups’ music was as amazing as the performance. From the opening licks of “Welcome To The Church of Rock and Roll” to final notes of “The Only Way To My Heart…” the band sounded like a well-oiled machine. As great as the jams were, it’s hard to not talk about the antics. The first highlight was Nally’s bitching out of a douchebag who ruined the punch line of a long drawn out “joke” about a drunk by screaming for the night’s headliner. As you can see here, Nally had no problem cutting him down to size. Where I assumed the highlight of the night would be Nelly eating a cigarette on stage, it turned out it was anything but. Yes, it was great to see him eat not one but no less than five lit cigarettes during “The Temple.” However the speech that followed where Nally confessed he was over the dumb stunt but felt he had to do it was somewhat heartbreaking. Cigarettes or not, Foxy Shazam are one bad ass motherfucking rock and roll revival and the sold out crowd would have been won over had he eaten them or not.
It was around 9:40pm when “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy blasted through the PA. While a mix of songs from the likes of Electric Six and Boston has already been heard by the capacity crowd, there was no way that this particular song choice was a coincidence. Moments later the boys known as The Darkness were hitting the stage to a thunderous applause as they kicked off the nearly two hour show with “Black Shuck.” Out the gate the band sounded superb with their flashy guitar licks and falsetto vocals. “Growing On Me” quickly followed as late comers did their best to find a spot in the packed club.
One of my biggest surprises of the night was how much new material (and B-sides) the band performed. Early on the band started to drop songs from their highly anticipated new record (still untitled and due out later this year). Of the new material and B-sides, some of the stand out numbers included “The Best Of Me,” “Concrete” and “Physical Sex.” Another highlight was front man Justin Hawkins giving a shout out to the individual who animated the music video for the just released track “Nothing’s Going To Stop Us.” The animator jumped up and down with delight in the VIP section as the group ripped the venue a new one with the feel good jam of 2012.
As great as the new material was, everyone in the crowd was pumped for the classics. I am pretty sure the band managed to perform every track from their 2003 debut Permission To Land. Highlights included Hawkins solo take on “Holding My Own” as well as spot on renditions of “Love Is Only A Feeling,” “Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman” and “Givin’ Up.” Another highlight from that era was the band breaking out their cover of the Radiohead classic “Street Spirit [Fade Out]” that featured seizure inducing strobe lights and the band sounding better than Radiohead has in fifteen years. You of course don’t need me to share the reaction of the crowd when the band played their biggest hit “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” to close the main set.
The thing that stuck out the most was how grateful the band appeared on stage. It’s clear that each and every member realizes that they have been blessed with a second chance and at least on this particular night it felt as if they refuse to allow the opportunity to go to waste. The energy all night from the crowd was massive, be it singing along, synchronized overhead claps or clearing a path so Hawkins could shred while riding on the shoulders of a security guard during the night’s final number “Love On The Rocks With No Ice.” It’s clear that 2012 is going to be the best year for The Darkness yet and I am glad I no longer have to lie when folks asked if I have seen the pride of Lowestoft, England live.