The Darkness - live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Darkness

live in Chicago (2004)

live show

The Darkness has done quite well over the last year, emerging from obscurity into welcome embraces as (almost) household personalities. Successfully making the moves from English bar band to European headliners to international hit makers with "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" to a sold out headlining tour in America, it has been quite the novel success story for a rock and roll band. But the novelty of this success is what The Darkness should be concerned with, for Saturday night at the Vic in Chicago was just one of many cramped theaters the quartet will be performing to over the next couple of months, and judging by Saturday's show, Hawkins and crew may have quite a bit to prove for they are hardly the seasoned veterans one would expect. Playing the entirety of "Permission to Land" (minus "Holding On") and one new tune wonderfully entitled "Up Shit's Creek Without a Paddle", The Darkness came across as a band who plays better on record and is far less to look at then their video would lead one to believe.

Taking to the stage after a limp introduction from one of Chicago's Q101 DJs, a curtain over the stage projects the unmistakable silhouette of singer/guitarist Justin Hawkins as he indulges the crowd with a few poses as the mishmash crowd of the city's white demographic patiently waits to be entertained. The curtain finally drops as prerecorded keyboards fade out, and then! an instrumental warm up begins complete with sound problems and no climax, leaving the crowd still patiently waiting to be entertained. Looking to drive the show in the right lane, "Black Shuck" begins giving a solitary crowd-surfer a thirty-second thrill, but it's not nearly enough to move the crowd, most of whom are present due to "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" while others are present just in case something amazing happens, which is unfortunate for nothing does happen and the hit single comes towards the end of a very long hour of uninspired rock and roll. The Darkness is a unique band that has written an album of well-crafted pop rock with great arrangements showcasing the guitar chops and melodic tastes of the brothers Hawkins all of which supports the incredible voice of lead man Justin, but on stage they came across as unrehearsed and better individual musicians than a good band. Not once was the attention of the crowd ransacked and exploited in the manner it should've been. Extended resolutions at the end of every song hand in hand with Justin's constant six-string noodling in between tunes just about killed whatever energy was present in the thirty-somethings and college kids, and the expectation from the band to sing along is more than the stunted vocal chords of everyone but Hawkins can handle, less interested in singing along than listening for proof that he can sing those high notes, which he can and did as if it was no more difficult than yawning.

Do The Darkness have potential as a band? Yes. Are they ready to be headlining their own American tour? No, and it was disappointing to witness and acknowledge this Saturday night at the Vic theater in Chicago. America has high expectations for who and what Dan, Justin, Ed, and Frankie are, expectations that are lofty and an important factor in the success of The Darkness and I hope for their sake, and ticket holders' sake as well, that they buckle down and deliver the rock show everyone could ever hope for, but as of now I'm not sure if that's possible just yet.