The Darkness @The Hunter Lounge, Wellington, New Zealand, October 21, 2022
Broken ribs, broken drums and a break in the time space continuum. It must mean one thing: The Darkness are in town.
In the first show of the band’s NZ leg of the tour, lead singer Justin Hawkins revealed he was suffering from a gig-related injury picked up in Australia (boo) and might not be his usual self on the dancefloor, but if he hadn’t said anything nobody would have noticed – especially when he pulled out a headstand complete with an upside down splits.
For those who came for the 2003 nostalgia weren’t disappointed, those who came for the heavy riffs, especially on songs from new album Motorheart like Welcome Tae Glasgae, It’s Love, Jim and Motorheart weren’t disappointed and the dude (also called Justin) who was invited onto stage, given a beer and asked to film I Believe In A Thing Called Love on his phone wasn’t disappointed.
Even though this tour was to support Motorheart, they knew the crowd wanting to hear singalong favourites like One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back as well as the classics from Permission to Land.
And that’s because Justin Hawkins, the lead singer of the band, is a showman through and through. You might argue that dressed like he was – in a glorious, emerald green sequined jumpsuit – he hasn’t got a choice. Maybe he doesn’t have a choice, maybe he’s born for it.
If he was someone you knew at school, he’d be one of those guys you’d want to hate but just can’t; good looking, confident, an unshakable sense of his own style, can get on with anyone. He’s probably great at sport too. Bastard.
And when he speaks it’s like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, but you get the impression that plenty of other things would.
Although it took the Wellington crowd a little while to warm up and be the crowd this band deserved, Hawkins got them there like a pro he is – using a little cajoling (via a mild scolding for having too many phones out), a few tried and testing tricks and his natural charisma.
But probably the best thing about him is he incredible vocal range, and The Hunter Lounge’s sound department delivered for him. His voice is like a fifth instrument in this band, and if he wasn’t pin-sharp, it would have ruined the performance. Thankfully, every falsetto note was perfect.
So was the rest of it. This band took over the world once and they’re still playing sold out shows half way across the world nearly 20 years later. You don’t sustain a fanbase like that by not being a serious band full of serious musicians.
Speaking of nearly 20 years ago, the band’s original line-up was in fine form in Wellington, including drummer Rufus, who got so excited he broke two of his drums.
And then it was over, via a quick costume change for the encore, a lap around the crowd on the shoulders of his guitar deck and some more crowd tricks. Justin Hawkins, natural showman. Never stop.