All the gigs of my life: Gig 76 – The Darkness, Wednesday, October 22, 2003, Hammersmith Apollo

My one and only gig from The Darkness, who came to save us all from tedium with their guitar solos and hair-flinging rock majesty.

Looking back at 2003, it feels as though the musical landscape was brimming with a diverse array of glittering delights. Pop and indie bands both still had a strong hold on the charts, dance music was as thrilling as ever, and the occasional weird mavericks were still given their time to shine.

And no mavericks were quite as extraordinary as the Darkness. I’d bought their album, “Permission To Land”, in July of 2003, and I wrote a mini-review in my diary at the end of that month:

I mean LOOK at them! The hair of Aerosmith, the moustache of Queen, the pout of T-Rex and the wardrobe of KISS! You just don’t do that in the zeroes!* I have to admit, it was purely the thought of seeing them strutting about in zebra-striped catsuits and flailing perms that made me buy a ticket for their October gig. So having done that, I had to get their album of course. And bloody hell! Forget twelve years of indie training and luxuriate in the scribbling slashery of the solos, screeches of “geetar!” and manly falsetto. You gotta love a band whose party anthem includes the line “needlework on Tuesday!” And their ballads are lovely, as is the way with these sorts of bands. I get the impression they’re a shade past their early twenties too, which is kinda cheering.

(*Note: I have always called the first decade of this century ‘the zeroes’. Because it’s the name of a Bowie song, and thus way cooler than ‘the noughties’, which is just silly.)

But then when the time came, as with my Kosheen gig the night before this one, I found myself in a period of life where I was far too wrapped up in my new geeky, hobbit and wizard themed interests to write more than a couple of words in my diary about the gig itself. At least this time the words I wrote were positive ones: ‘pure rawk thrills!’ But not a lot to go on for a blog post.

I really have only one actual memory of the night: that I had a seat up on the balcony, and the moment the band came on stage, every single person in the crowd stood up as if propelled by some mysterious rock’n’roll force. And we stayed that way throughout the whole night, lifted by the sheer energy and melodic power of their already impressive catalogue of songs.

But here comes my geeky 2003 livejournal to the rescue again! And, according to this entry entitled “I believe in a thing called RAWK“, it turns out my memory is nearly accurate:

Well, after last’s night’s disappointing gig experience, I wasn’t really in the mood for going out again, but I’m so glad I did. The Darkness certainly restored my faith in live music. I guess I’m a rawk girl at heart. The atmosphere was brilliant – I was on the balcony and quite close to the back, and every single person was on their feet before the band took the stage. I’ve never seen that from a balcony crowd before. They’re a band who really know how to entertain, be a spectacle, as well as having great tunes. Ah, the catsuits, the falsetto, the strutting, the fiddly geetar solos, ’twas all brilliant. Definitely a band I want to see up close at some point. If it was a great gig from the back of the balcony, it must have been utterly storming for those crushed against the barrier.

Justin: gimme a D!
Crowd: D!!!!
Justin: gimme an Arkness!
Crowd: ARKNESS!!!!!

Gotta love the lunacy.’

As with Kosheen, I’ve been doing a little research to find out what they’re up to now – and it turns out they’re still recording and touring and in fact, I just missed seeing them on their latest UK tour in December. As fate would have it however, the last gig I went to before lockdown started included a Darkness song, with the Lounge Kittens’ majestic cover of “Love Is Only A Feeling” at their Union Chapel gig.

The thing that hits me the most upon revisiting the Darkness’s moment in the spotlight is just how fun and vibrant and varied the chart music scene was back in 2003, and how generic it feels now. Where are the hair-flinging mavericks, the boys and girls in spandex and mascara, the bands and singers who are not afraid to look ridiculous in the name of Pop Glory? In the current pop landscape, there’s a touch of it in Harry Styles, but that’s about it. Even Lady Gaga seems to have watered down many of the elements that made her so shockingly exciting a decade ago.

So now I know that the Darkness are still striding on with their idiosyncratic rawk fabulousness, I find myself definitely of the same mind as my 2003 self – I want to see them again. What with lockdown and the fact that they’ve already played London recently, who knows when that chance will come. But until then I’ve got their back catalogue to catch up on, and when the time comes I’ll be there, up close to the stage, to scream and fling my hair along with their flamboyant rawk majesty once more.

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