The Darkness @Newcastle O2 Academy, December 10, 2021

The world is a very different place now than nearly two decades ago, when The Darkness first burst on to the British rock scene.

Hell, it is a very different world since the band’s last tour in 2019.

Just like their Easter Is Cancelled Tour of that year, the band have a new album to promote.

Unlike their last effort however, The Darkness opted against playing the entire release in one go, before moving on to the crowd pleasers.

Instead, the Motorheart tour provided an eclectic mix of new and old to keep the crowd entertained.

Airing tracks from the Motorheart album followed by something from the evergreen Permission To Land was a smart strategy: it kept fans unfamiliar with their more contemporary offerings on board.

For some, The Darkness will (wrongly) remain the band that peaked in the noughties: there will be those who attend their gigs simply to record I Believe In A Thing Called Love on their phones… and relive one of the greatest rock tracks in modern history.

Each to their own.

But outside of that infamous track awaits a back catalogue of equally barnstorming anthems, songs which command more respect than is often afforded to them.

And Hawkins and Co ripped through them during their set.

The band’s recent releases focus on more than just drug references, instead utilising word play edged with British sensibility and satire that make the dick jokes of Steel Panther seem embarrassingly worn out.

The elephant in the room was Downing Street’s latest restrictions… and the effect on the live music industry. Venues are facing a logistical nightmare to cram in rescheduled or cancelled tours up and down the country, but Hawkins addressed the rumours of British Lion’s impromptu absence as support band head on.

Clarifying the only COVID-19 strategy he wanted to adhere to was “don’t get Covid and carry on rocking”, the frontman also confirmed the grand total of zero refunds had been requested due to British Lion dropping out.

Massive Wagons were a fantastic replacement support band. And they even came to The Darkness’s rescue by supplying a new snare drum when Rufus Taylor’s gave up the ghost.

The Darkness feel the love

Fans may come for I Believe In A Thing Called Love, but in the shape of Love Is Only A Feeling, they certainly have something to stay for. A hugely underrated track in not just the band’s arsenal, but in rock history, the track contains a couple of astonishing guitar solos that translate just as well in a live setting as they did on first listen all those years ago.

Solid Gold, Welcome Tae Glasgae, Heart Explodes and One Way Ticket all received huge ovations.

And as far as frontmen go, Justin Hawkins was as impressive as ever.

Able to switch from wailing vocals to shredding guitar solos via comedy with the audience, he has always possessed the gifts to lead the band wherever they go.

Mix in some distinctive skin tight jumpsuits that look like Pocahontas and Elvis have combined fashion sense, and you know you’re in for one hell of show.

A Christmas costume change led to a bizarrely extended break off stage between main set and encore, limiting the latter to a cover of Last Christmas and the band’s infamous festive number Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End).

With each passing album release, The Darkness are quietly solidifying themselves as one of the best British rock acts our shores have to offer.

The only issue for anyone truly immersed in the band is which songs will make the cut on a new tour.

Not exactly the worst problem to have though, is it?