@ Newcastle O2 Academy, November 12 2011

A sell-out O2 Academy crowd could barely contain its excitement as The Darkness took the stage and opened up with the brilliant Black Shuck.

Singing along from the first chord, those present set the tone for a night of raucous retro fun as every rock fan’s guilty pleasure got back to what they do best. 

To say that it was a 1,500-strong Karaoke night would be unfair on a truly talented quartet but as The Darkness tore through a back catalogue showcasing old favourites Growing On Me and The Best Of Me they held the heaving masses in the palm of their hands.

Leading the front line was a supercharged Justin Hawkins, a Johnny Depp look-a-like who had the crowd in raptures. Those who caught the band’s comeback set at Download anticipated fireworks but for the rest this was always going to be an uncertain step back to the future.

Prior to singing One Way Ticket To Hell…And Back, an animated Hawkins referred to it reflecting the ‘olden days’ but there was nothing old about the way this reinvigorated band blasted through another favourite Darkness anthem.

A flamoboyant Hawkins handstand midway through Get Your Hands Off My Woman lifted the showmanship to the next level and ensured levels of expectation barely dipped.

As much as The Darkness like to be bold and noisy, the acoustic Out Of This World was a reminder of how melodic Justin can be. With the crowd waving their arms through this and the equally emotive Holding On My Own the recognition of a truly talented artists was there for all to see.

Concrete Lion certainly broke the silence as a more hard rocking song gained great backing from the floor.

The light hearted Friday Night produced a soft break before the rock instrumental Cannonball led to Hawkins re-appearing on the stage firing firebolts from his hands.

Is It Just Me? proved a sound choice from the band’s much maligned second album and the warm introduction of brother Dan, on guitar, for Street Spirit banished any thoughts that old hatchets had yet to be buried. If Hawkins is the focal point then he has never lost sight of the fact that The Darkness is a band.

With a further two songs from Permission To Land squeezed in before the main set finale – Givin’ Up and Stuck In A Rut – this was a set to savour. The decision to wrap things up with seasonal favourite Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) sparked wild celebration before calls for the inevitable encore.

Bareback, followed by a faultless cover of Queen’s Tie Your Mother Down followed before Hawkins teased the crowd for one last time – finally unleashing the first three chords of I Believe In A Thing Called Love to usher in a maddening singalong of the band’s most famous hit.

Hawkins then admitted to the audience that ‘he was afraid of not giving us a good time’ at which point the crowd responded with a deafeningly positive reply before The Darkness finished the night with Love On The Rocks With No Ice.

The ultimate rock party band may have taken plenty of songs from their Permission To Land debut but it’s guaranteed they won’t need permission the next time they want to play in Newcastle.

John Evans