The Darkness - Manchester Apollo - 15.10.03
If we told you the last time the Darkness played a headline gig in Manchester it was to just 40 people you'd probably tell us to f*ck off with the sheer disbelief of it all. But sure enough while the rest of the music press was busy kissing the arse of a second cousin removed of Julian Casablanca, Designer Magazine was there to witness the birth of a truly British rock sensation in the confines of the Manchester Hop & Grape. Back then of course it was all just a pipe dream of Simon Price's to reinstate Cock Rock in the heart of the nation and following his dalliances with the ill-fated ROMO scene it wasn't clear whether the Darkness were going to flounder as a cult band playing to a handful of devotees or fill stadiums as their sound seemed destined to. Support slots with the likes of Def Leppard and Deep Purple planted the band firmly in the minds of "real rock fans", but it was to be comedy tap dance Robbie Williams who truly sealed the bands fate when he begged them to support him at Knebworth only to later regret it when 350,000 people universally acknowledged that he could no longer entertain them...not now that a band such as the Darkness fulfil everything that's great about rock music over the past 40 years.
Stood amongst near enough 4000 people here it feels so strange to actually witness this phenomenon first hand after such humble beginnings with the band. Sure we've seen the band on CD:UK every single week for the past 3 months, we've seen the fact that Busted and Baby Spice are falling over themselves to get their hands on Justin's trousersnake and we've seen a certain other weekly music publication put the band on the front cover 4 times without ever having spoken to the band themselves. This is a phenomenon that dwarf's Britpop, Acid House and every single musical event leading back to punk and all from a band who bucked every convention in the industry and didn't even sign to a major until a few months ago.
As the silhouettes sway across and semi-transparent curtain the atmosphere's builds to unbearable levels. I'm 25 and i'm acting like Elvis is going to be raised from the dead and placed before us. It's a religious experience and the religion we are all indulging in is the religion of rock and roll. Like Justin were drinking from the fountain of eternal youth and although I may be 25, I have the right to remain as young as I feel. The curtain drops and the band launch into the rifferama twin set of "Bareback" and "Black Shuck". It's the only entrance they could make and should make as anything else would fall short in the hit between the eyes striking down goliath sense of the phrase. Within seconds Justin is playing his guitar like he plays his ladies, rough but with a tender touch, (Ed: Sorry for the Fast Show-ism but in this case it was warranted) and 4000 Thumbs are place in the air as a show of unity. With an audience stretching from 12 year old kids who've seen the band fettered over by Cat Deeley to 60 year olds rediscovering their youth and realizing there's more to live than the monthly re-issues round up in Mojo magazine it seems the band have got the whole market sewn up. The international contingency equal worships at the feet of Dan, Frankie and Ed but without Justin up front the whole thing would fall apart. More than the sum of their parts every single piece of the Darkness' story makes them stronger and that includes the fact that the music industry universally ignored them for the best part of the last 12 months until they relinquished and realized that's this thing has got legs.
"Best Of Me", my favourite Darkness song aside from the obvious classic "Friday Night", is a anthem on the scale of Queen's "Best Friend" or dare I mention it, Starsailor's "Good Souls". One of those good time anthems about those closest to you and with a riff stolen straight from the Quo it's destined to remain in the history books of Rock & Roll. With each and every song seeming like most bands finales it's hard to pick out any discernible highlights as it's like night of multiple orgasms. The indie light of "Growing On Me", the soaring balladeering of "Love Is Only A Feeling", an exquisite cover of Radiohead's "Street Spirit" and final high of "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" leading up to the inevitable encore. The Darkness are a band that encore's were made for and while most bands clamber on to a pathetic slow clap from a few lost souls, the Darkness leave the stage with even more of a reaction than they did when they first arrived. After "Dune Patrol" and "Deaf In Both Ears" the smack anthem of "Givin Up" with the mantra of "Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Givin up Givin Up Givin a fuck" is unleashed before the final kiss goodnight of "Love On The Rocks With No Ice".
For the past 12 months critics have been quick to dismiss the Darkness as a joke band along the lines of Spinal Tap. If this is a joke then exactly who is the joke on. Maybe those people who didn't believe in the band in the first place and are now desperately backtracking on previous statements in order to get a piece of the action. Unbelievably tonight was only the start of things to come and next year the Darkness look set to play one of the biggest Arena tours this country has ever seen and hope to have a number 1 single and album in America. The fact that this can and will happen is proof in itself that the good finally will out.
Photo's by Karen McBride - www.karenmcbride.com
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