Written and Photographed by Rev. TJ McGlinchey, MFA, MAE
It was a gloomy Thursday night in Philadelphia when I parked my car on North 7th Street to attend a concert by British rockers The Darkness at Franklin Music Hall. The show was to start right at 9:00 PM. I missed the opening duo Paris Monster, but I was there in time to hear their last few chords ringing out. A friend had tagged along, and they went to the bar back and forth while I geeked out nearly the entire show. For the opening three numbers, I was in the photo pit to witness the band in full glory.
The band came out swaggering, as is their modus operandi, and launched into “Arrival,” “Black Shuck,” and the ever-green classic “Get Your Hands Off My Woman.” By the time they got through that tune, lead singer Justin Hawkins had removed his shirt and made love to the room. Now, let me take a pause here to remember that 20 years ago when this first album of theirs called Permission To Land was released, I was a huge fan. During those first three songs in the pit, I was fanboying a little bit. On my way out of the photo pit, I got a fist bump from the lead singer and a “cheers, brother,” which made my night before they started.
For the next part of the set daily, it went from one tune into another, seemingly without stopping. The band played another hit called “Growing On Me,” which is a favorite of mine, and then “The Best Of Me,” “Making Out,” “Giving Up,” and then “Love Is Only a Feeling.” From one song to the next, they played like the veterans that they are, and it’s clear to see why Brian May of Queen has joined them in concert. Both Hawkins brothers played like they were taught in Brian May’s guitar school.
They continued being absolute rock stars as they played “The Curse of The Tollund Man,” “Stuck In a Rut,” “How Dare You Call This Love,” and “Street Spirit.” In between songs, Hawkins would banter with the audience like we were in his living room. If you’ve ever seen his YouTube channel, you’ll know the kind of conversational style I am referring to, which makes his stage presence mostly rockstar with a pinch of standup comedian.
For the last part of the set, they played “Holding My Own,” “Friday Night,” then paused for a minute before teasing the biggest song of the evening. Justin played a funky version of the opening riff to their biggest hit. He paused again to ask the audience to join him in a magical moment where everyone would put away their phones and cameras. Most of us were inclined to oblige. Then they launched into their mega-hit, the song heard across the universe, “I Believe In A Thing Called Love.” The entire venue was singing along with every single word and humming along.
They returned for an encore, dressed in pajamas and silk robes. The band had switched positions. The bassist played guitar. The drummer played bass, and the guitarist played drums. That lineup lasted for a tune called “I Love You 5 Times.” Then, they closed the show with a song called “Love On The Rocks With No Ice.” The singer surfed the crowd during a grand guitar solo.
As they left the stage, the crowd was in complete shock, and I could feel the gratitude in the air for what had just happened before us. It was an honor for me to see this band. I had long awaited to experience their music at a live concert. It was everything I had hoped and imagined it would be, and I got a fist bump from the lead singer, so, there.
Cheers, brothers and sisters!