The Aquarium, Lowestoft, December 18
“This is the first time in 13 years I’ve been embarrassed,” Justin Hawkins admits during The Darkness’ first ever hometown show.
“I’ve just realised how embarrassing it is to sing songs about going to school in Lowestoft… in Lowestoft, to people who probably went to school with me.
“But don’t worry. It didn’t last long. I’m already back to feeling awesome, as usual.”
With the wind howling in off the North Sea, Justin, brother Dan, Ed Graham and Frankie Poullain created their own weather system inside the brand new Aquarium venue, melting a capacity crowd of 800 on its opening night.
The eastern most point of the United Kingdom boasted one of the oldest human settlements in the country but it hasn’t had a venue big enough until now for its most famous musical export since composer Benjamin Britten.
“Any old school teachers here?” said the unitarded Justin, who could pass for Benjamin Button, early in the set. “You? You might be an old school teacher but you’re not one of mine.”
The set was identical to two nights previous in Norwich – eight songs including b-sides following by Permission To Land in full and then Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) for an encore. But the occasion was clearly unique.
The BBC’s Look East had interviewed backstage the local boys made good earlier in the evening and the venue was already packed for the prog-meets-indie openers LostAlone. The lack of activity outside was down to oil rig-like weather, not lack of enthusiasm. You could still smell the paint in the swish new venue and two security guards had the task of pointing out where the men’s toilets were to disoriented punters.
This was not a crowd of scenesters dressed like the band, or technology-obsessed acolytes filming every song and taking note of the setlist. These were people celebrating a civic event, drawn from every age group and other demographic.
(In fact, ours was the only camera in sight and we were firmly told by security – who also banned mobile phone video – to keep it in our pocket from the outset. Still, we did manage to grab a couple of surreptitious shots – see below.)
All the staples of a Darkness knees-up were evident: witty repartee, Justin climbing into the scaffolding (“This is a new venue,” he said, “should this thing be moving like this?”) and being piggybacked by a roadie through the masses, not to mention drummer Graham’s hilarious drum solo in which setting up the gear takes longer than the actual instrumental break.
The faux-documentary intro to the Permission To Land segment is worth more than the face value of the ticket alone. And while one may well question where The Darkness go after playing their most popular album from beginning to end, this was hardly of consequence tonight.
Highlights included the rare The Horn early on, the always earth-rattling Black Shuck and the floor rattling so much during I Believe In A Thing Called Love that it was best not to wonder if the sea was directly below our feet.
“We’ve been all around the country,” said Justin, “and to other countries. We went to Wales, didn’t we? And Northern Ireland and Scotland.
“Shitholes, all of them. This is the place to be.”
No matter where The Darkness have been, and what unknowable places they are going, their pride in where they’re from has finally – belatedly but loudly – been reciprocated.
* Review courtesy of Hotmetalonline.com