Review of The Darkness live at Manchester Academy Sunday on November 13, 2011

When The Darkness disbanded in 2006 it ended a frantic three year period that culminated in the quartet becoming household names and tabloid darlings. Half a decade later they have returned with their original line up and are in the middle of a UK tour, following on from their Download Festival slot in the summer.

The Darkness

It's easy to forget that before the media overexposure The Darkness had the music world excited because of killer riffs, huge anthems and funny lyrics, not because of cat suits and flying Siberian tigers in arenas. Tonight's more grounded venue means the focus should be much more on the music.but that doesn't stop the band poking fun at themselves. Frontman Justin Hawkins emerges from a cage structure that houses drummer Ed Graham as the quartet begin with 'Black Shuck' and then 'Growing On Me', which causes a sing-along that would put some stadium performances to shame. It is soon apparent that most if not all of the audience are amongst the 1.5 million owners of debut 'Permission To Land', for every track is dynamite, even non-singles such as 'Friday Night' and the splendid acoustic rendition of 'Holding My Own'. Key to the reaction is Hawkins' impressive vocal control, note-perfect in falsetto and without any cracks in the delivery, a truly powerful audio weapon.

The second record is represented only by 'One Way Ticket' and 'Is It Just Me?', both of which get decent receptions, but rather than just a show to cash-in on former glory the set is padded with a good number of new songs. Amongst them 'Best Of Me' has the crowd clapping and 'Out Of This World' already has people singing along by the final verse, but what sticks out about them as a collection is the quality of the guitar work. At times it's as if there is a competition between lead guitarist Dan Hawkins and his brother, with the winner being the audience, as they are treated to some great riffs and solos, boding well for any future album. The aural side of The Darkness live experience is truly still impressive, but the band don't forget the gimmicks that had people talking about their shows - so we get some a lovely confetti parade against a background of red and green during 'Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)' and some small bursts of fire from a glorified lighter..and of course Justin slips into the infamous catsuit. Welcome back The Darkness.

Alex Lai

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