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Darkness no joke in Tempe

By Kevin Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 29, 2004
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In my early teens, my Dad drove me and a friend an hour to Worcester, Mass., to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers play with Silverchair and some other band I can't remember. It was my first real rock concert (excluding a John Denver live set I was dragged to before I hit 10 years old) and it was awesome.

Sure I didn't know the Chili's were near-implosion because of heavy heroin habits, but that damn music put a mile-wide smile on my face and had me head-banging so hard, my neck was sore for days.

Well, my neck wasn't in kinks after seeing The Darkness this weekend at the sold-out Marquee Theatre in Tempe (I've since learned to channel my inner head-banger). But I felt like a squeaky-voiced, hairless, angst-ridden wreck again with just as broad a smile.

You may be saying, "The Darkness? You mean the British butt-metal band with the fem-looking lead singer with the cats-having-sex voice? Those guys can lick my (chosen sexual organs(s))."

Yeah. Those guys.

Listen, I don't care if you can't stand a note of their music. Green eggs and ham, buddy. It was easily the best show of any new band I've seen in the last five years.

Taking the songs of their debut "Permission To Land" and rocketing them into an unearthly stratosphere of rock in which themes such as self-pity and useless negativity seem like stone-age concepts, this band is out for the time of their lives. At least they were April 22.

"It's still warm," lead singer Justin Hawkins said after catching a nice-sized bra flung from the audience. Hawkins at one point had to stop the show for about five minutes to deal with all the women's undergarments thrown at the stage. (It should be noted this was post-first costume change.) Hawkins altered outfits twice during the show: from leather pants with no shirt to begin, to a ripped silver unitard with peacock feathers on the back midway through, to a bright pink-and-white-striped unitard for the encore.

The fact that this guy can sport a unitard with bird's feathers, a tattoo of his own name on his arm and one with flames coming out of his crotch, and still get lauded by a salivating female fanbase, is a testament to just how much the world needs a band like this now.

When someone in the back raised his middle finger, Hawkins told the kid it could be interpreted as being negative and said to give the "thumbs-up sign" instead. To which the fan obliged! Such fan interaction makes the very idea of a band such as Limp Bizkit seem like a dreadful one-night stand for this nation: "What the hell were we thinking?"

He went on to get the audience to say the word "cunt" and "fuck" about five times each in unison before busting into "Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman," to which the audience screamed "motherfucker" to finish the song.

Every song, mostly from Permission, was played with a feverish passion and intensity by Hawkin's brother Dan on lead guitar, bassist Frankie Poullain and Ed Graham on drums.

During a closing guitar solo for "Love On The Rocks With No Ice," Hawkins was mobbed as he hopped on a security guard's shoulders and was carried around the venue, never missing a note.

This show was showmanship without arrogance. It was humorous without condescension. It was sexual without misogyny. It was fun without guilt. It was everything a good rock show should be. I only wish I had more money that night to keep them playing.

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