Two Decades with The Darkness: Iconic Hits, Band Evolution, and a Night in Vegas Review+Photos: The Darkness at Brooklyn Bowl 10/8/23
LAS VEGAS, NV- In 2003, The Darkness released their first studio album, “Permission To Land”. Its breakout hit, the song that would kick open the doors to the beginning of their success, “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”, has endured for twenty years. I, for one, will never forget the first time I saw the video on VH1. My eyes widened, and my ears perked up, absorbing it all. Somewhere between lead singer, Justin Hawkins, popping out flash dance style from a spaceship hot tub, and bassist Frankie Poullain bursting through the spaceship doors with a headband barely containing his hair, along with Dan Hawkins’ insane guitar solo, I knew that whatever The Darkness was selling, I was buying.
Twenty years later, there I was. I’d dusted off my cameras, driven three and a half hours to Vegas down Route 66, and was standing in the photo pit with quiet anxiety. This tour was special. The Darkness was calling. They were indeed asking for ‘Permission to Land… Again’ (that’s actually the name of the tour), and I, along with everyone else in the Brooklyn Bowl, shouted, “Permission granted… Again!”
In the twenty years since that release, The Darkness has done a lot of living. After extensive touring in support of their debut album, Poullain left the band in 2005. The following year, Justin Hawkins departed from the band after successfully completing rehabilitation for alcohol and cocaine abuse. Meanwhile, the remaining members, guitarist Dan Hawkins and (now ex) drummer Ed Graham, formed the band Stone Gods.
But, the magic or fate that initially brought them together wasn’t finished with them. On March 15, 2011, The Darkness announced reunion shows with all original members. However, the renewed Darkness didn’t last. In October 2014, it was announced that the band was no longer working with drummer Ed Graham, stating, “for various reasons, we have all decided to move on. We love Ed and we wish him happiness.” In May 2015, the young dynamo, Rufus Taylor, took over on drums and has been Justin’s “tour wife” ever since. This is a brief summary of the events that took place, but since 2015 the band has released four studio albums and seems to be in top form.
I recount the band’s history to offer perspective. Given the trials and tribulations behind them, I believe there’s a genuine appreciation for what lies ahead. During the show, I noted three examples that captured this sentiment:
One: Before playing “A Thing Called Love”, Justin passionately requested the audience to put away their cell phones to be “spiritually present in the moment together”. A challenge was issued: “… let’s see you bounce, motherfuckers!” The result was electric. The Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas vibrated — literally. The floor pulsated beneath my feet for the entire song, making it tough to snap photos. During those initial three songs, I noticed the band members exchanging meaningful glances, clearly appreciative of the audience’s energy.
Two: An extended rendition of “Love On The Rocks With No Ice” was played. Both the band and the audience seemed not to want it to end. At one juncture, Justin sat atop a fan’s shoulders, delivering an extended guitar solo while weaving through the crowd, as the remaining band members, adorned in luxurious robes, played on. Special wardrobe kudos to Mr. Poullain, the “lone wolf”, for his robe choice.
Three: The meticulous planning for the evening, especially the setlist, was evident. They performed all songs from “Permission To Land”, including the B-sides, and tweaked the order for optimal live performance. The preparation for the tour was evident in Justin’s flawless vocals. Not a beat was missed, not a riff out of place. If there were any hitches, they only enhanced the evening’s charm.
In conclusion, The Darkness was assessed and found unparalleled. The only ones left wanting were the fans in Las Vegas, yearning for more. Cheers to the journey ahead, gentlemen! May there be many more miles to travel.