Fittingly, one of the last pre-show songs to play before The Darkness took the stage was Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town.”
Last year, the cheeky British hair metal gods got their act back together after a six-year hiatus caused by the typical rock ‘n’ roll reasons: drugs and ego.
They returned to the U.S. last spring and spent part of the summer opening for Lady Gaga on her European tour, but Saturday night’s packed gig at The Masquerade exemplified what is so great about this band: They’re completely ridiculous, and they know it.
Frontman Justin Hawkins – he of the prior drug issues which broke up the band for a bit – is looking shaggy and muscled, his admirably in-shape frame on display in his open-shirted striped spandex jumpsuit, a kaleidoscope of tattoos coloring his body.
That crazy falsetto of his is still in fine working order, too, – aided, no doubt, by the bottles of water he chugged stageside, which is probably a change from a decade ago.
From the opening “Every Inch of You,” from the band’s enjoyable third album, “Hot Cakes,” released last summer, to “I Believe in a Thing Called Love,” their hyperactive semi-U.S. hit from 2003 (they’ve had seven others in the U.K. and five in Australia), Hawkins, his guitarist brother Dan, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham were loud, crisp and spot-on during a 90-minute set of mindless fun.
Even when Hawkins was being candid – “This is a song about drugs,” he said flatly before his brother’s jagged guitar ushered in the stomping “One Way Ticket” – it would be impossible to exit a Darkness show without grinning at some point.
Maybe it was hearing the unholy shrieking and hilariously rude chorus of “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” again – and watching Hawkins bravely stage dive during the song – or perhaps it was getting a gander at Poullain’s unchanged Brillo-esque hair springing out around a Loverboy-era bandanna.
Yes, there is plenty for a metal fan to love among the Darkness’ exaggerated look, the haze that coated the stage during the first few songs of their set and the ’80s-worthy light show.
Even Hawkins’ banter – “Gimme a D! Gimme an …arkness!” – was amusing.
But beneath the silliness and frank frivolity of their party rock, these are well-crafted songs, even if Hawkins ripped out his impressive blues rock riffs on “The Best of Me” playing his guitar behind his head and shaking his rear at the crowd – a crowd of close to 1,000 which seemingly knew every chorus well enough to shout along lovingly.
The days of The Darkness’ grandiose arena tours might be a distant memory, but scaling back to grotty, airless joints such as The Masquerade, where the walls breathe with the stench of sweaty rock ‘n’ roll, is a perfect setting for the band’s second act – and one they’re seemingly readily embracing.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene