Wunderbar: The Darkness Live Review

by - April 17, 2018

The thing about The Darkness is once they walk onto a stage, all bets are off.

Every expectation of how a concert is meant to run becomes the polar opposite for the British rock band, who not only commands the stage in their own unique form but transforms the crowd into long-lost friends. Their show at Park West in Chicago was no exception.

What started as a dark stage with quiet instrumentals gradually became louder and brighter until Justin Hawkins, Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain and Rufus Tiger Taylor made their way out in almost a religious fashion - complete with animal print jumpsuits, mustard yellow two-pieces and untamed hairstyles.

They dove right into “Open Fire” from their fourth studio album, Last of Our Kind, but it wasn’t until their second song, “Love is Only a Feeling”, that the audience became responsive. The setlist reflected much of their debut studio album, Permission to Land, which was first released in the US in August 2003.

Songs like “Black Shuck” and “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” had a chorus of audience members singing or clapping along while the glamorous lead singer was balancing on his head and belting out high notes like it was no big deal.

The stage presence of Justin Hawkins included, but was not limited to, offering part of the stage as a coat check, attempting to hit the disco ball with his guitar picks and borrowing various items of clothing from audience members to wear throughout the set. The lack of barrier between the crowd and the stage gave him the opportunity to banter at a closer level and even bring audience members on stage to dance alongside him.

His quick wit did not go unnoticed, from calling out his own mistake during a note change and attempting to get the audience to hit his high notes to addressing crowd chants.

“We don’t do requests, unless it’s ‘Darkness, blow my fucking mind!’”

Songs from their latest release, Pinewood Smile, also made it to the setlist. “All The Pretty Girls”, “Buccaneers of Hispaniola”, “Solid Gold”, “Southern Trains” and “Japanese Prisoner of Love” were sprinkled between newer and older favorites. They share the same love for the glam-rock era as their older albums with an evolved sound that comes from over a decade of practice.

At the end of the night, only one word was used by Hawkins to describe the night - wunderbar, which is German for wonderful. They not only closed out with cult classic “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” but an extra performance of “Love on the Rocks with No Ice”. It was a night of loud, in-your-face, real-deal rock and roll. 

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