The Hunter Lounge, VUW 20/4/2017
I have for a very long time wanted to see The Darkess live. I didn't really think it would ever happen of course - the band split up in the late Nineties, only visited NZ once for a Big Day Out, and even when the reunion happened and then the Going Down Under Tour was announced last year, I didn't ever envisage myself being anywhere close to seeing them perform. Two missed chances with Iron Maiden have been geat teachers; but despite all avenues being exhausted with fellow audience-goers (one even at the eleventh hour), I went, I saw, and I believed.
It wasn't without its misgivings - a University venue meant the the whole student experience of crushing crowds, sticky floors and shuffling with eyes darting on either side waiting for an errant elbow to the head, was the order of the day. Strange how you forget the weird pehenomenon that is the front four rows of a standing gig quietly and mysteriously getting taller as the main act approaches. I haven't been in that sort of crowd since my own varsity days, and I didn't miss it.
But I'm so very glad I also didn't miss this experience. After a loose, fun and nostalgic warm up by Push Push, the main act was not tardy in fronting up - and front up they most certainly did. The Darkness are seasoned, but not yet venerable. Justin Hawkins has the energy of Jagger and the quick cheeky wit (and some of the look) of Russel Brand, and the band overall was tight, punchy and focussed. Brother Dan Hawkins lived up to his reputation s the quiet one, both siblings sharing guitar leads while bassist Frankie Poullain looked like the coolest man in Wellington as he would have had to have been, dressed in a polo neck, waistcoat and lounge suit. They opened with a reliable blinder - Black Shuck - and had me in the palm of their hands for the rest of the evening. Almost all of debut album Permission to Land was played, with a sprinkiling of new tracks including, curiously, what sounded like Hot Legs' Prima Donna - a few surpises and very few quiet bits, all lapped up by a fuller crowd than I'd anticipated. I don't think I've thrown so many goats, bawled out so many bawdy lyrics or - dear lord - danced. Ever. That just was never a Dunedin thing, I swear.
Well, I called it dancing. It was more jumping up and down on the spot - less pogo and matched with a decorous attempt to keep my arms close to my body (above my head for most of the time, though - it was really that kind of a gig), and on more than one occasion I was quietly grateful nobody I knew was there to see me. The soles and heels of my feet paid me back the next day (and I regretted not picking up a tee shirt on the way out); it's a young man's game. But hey, I had a literal brush with greatness when Hawkins, zipped up in his purple faux-cheetah-lined jumpsuit soloed past me on the shoulders of a roadie during their lengthy encore of Love on the Rocks With No Ice and I left feeling very very happy.
"Tell your freinds and families... we'll be back!" Justin Hawkins called out as they left the stage somewhere close to midnight. I hope the next time won't be too far away, and was already envying Christchurch its show the next night.