May 9, 2016 The Darkness Brightens Irving Plaza, NYC 5-2-16 w/ RavenEye
It was not too long ago when the British Rock band amply known as The Darkness dazzled North American fans during their Blast of Our Kind Tour in 2015. Just a few months after, in early 2016, fans rejoiced when the band announced they would be returning, this time playing on the 1986 classic film Back to the Future, dubbing it the “Back to the USSA” Tour. Continuing to support their 2015 album, Last of Our Kind, their second since their comeback in 2011, for their latest North American journey, The Darkness recruited fellow British Rockers RavenEye as direct support.
When the tour was first announced, The Darkness Vocalist Justin Hawkins stated, “If music and good times are in your soul, come see us perform live. A Darkness show is a place where believers come together, where fluids are shared, and dreams are built. But most importantly, Rock and Roll is crowned king every night!” With that declaration, the near month-long journey clocked a total of roughly twenty dates which kicked off on April 8th in Santa Cruz, California and concluded on May 4th in Boston, Massachusetts. This of course was not before The Darkness made an epic return to New York City on Monday, May 2nd, to a packed Irving Plaza crowd. Seeming to becoming a regular achievement for The Darkness, they last packed out the same venue on October 27, 2015. Quit impressive, no time was wasted as the evening of fun was about to begin.
With the venue half full, and still fans arriving, it was time for Brooklyn, New York Garage Pop act Best Behavior to take the stage. Recently, a lot of buzz has been spreading about these Rockers after the release of the debut LP Good Luck Bad Karma. It was not too long ago where Best Behavior performed at Irving Plaza on March 3rd when they opened up for The Struts. Stylistically, their music comes from a diverse batch of influences that includes The Velvet Underground, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, and Tame Impala.
Keeping their schedules full as they have been maxing out their time making a name for themselves, this up-and-coming fun act consists of members Alex Gruenberg, Jon Mann, Chris Jimenez, and Daniel Jacobson. This evening was no different as their radiant energy came to life that mixed between sounds of Doo Wop from the sixties to the early two-thousands of The Strokes, The Hives, and The Vines as they performed songs such as “Bad Habit.” The audience engaged with their cheerful tunes as everyone was geared up for the next act of the night.
After a quick set change, it was time for RavenEye to hit the stage. The name RavenEye is semi-new as the band initially formed in 2014, however, the members behind the group have an extended music career. Frontman Oli Brown spent over a decade touring across the globe and releasing a handful of albums where the rest includes Aaron Spiers on bass and Kev Hickman on drums. The trio together recently independently released their debut EP, Breaking Out, and on this evening, they were ready to surprise the New York crowd with the latest material.
Those relatively new to the band, RavenEye brings back an earlier Garage Rock style from the late nineties and early two thousands that mixes with a unique rebellious attitude. Some may have caught them on tour with Slash with Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators back in 2015, and those who did, know exactly how impressive they are. Their tremendous stamina showcased right from the get-go as leader Brown ran across the stage, jumped onto the drums and into the crowd. There was no dull movement as they performed tracks such as “Hey Hey Yeah,” “You Got It,” “Breaking Out,” and “Get It Started.” RavenEye is continuing to tour this summer in Europe, in the meantime, it is worth checking out the latest Breaking Out.
The venue officially became packed just in time for The Darkness to hit the stage. This innovative act formed in 2000 with their debut studio album, 2003’s Permission to Land, continues to receive praise. An act that reinvented and resurrected the true meaning of Rock -n- Roll, their vigorous energy continues to shine during live shows. Fans anxiously awaited for Frontman Justin Hawkins, Dan Hawkins (guitar, backing vocals), Frankie Poullain (bass, backing vocals), and Rufus Tiger Taylor (drums) to enter the platform and wondered which tricks they will pull this time around to everyone.
Kicking off the set with newer material with “Barbarian,” from Last of Our Kind, had the crowd dancing around from the get-go. It was after the classic song “Growing on Me,” from 2003’s Permission to Land, when Justin surprisingly pointed out a photographer who was dressed in a colorful Hawaiian shirt, as he informed all that everyone should dress like him. After this moment, the set continued to move forward with the newer song “Mudslide” and the classic “Black Shuck.” Justin took a moment casually to introduce his brother Daniel on the stage before going into the next fresh song, “Roaring Waters.” The jumping adrenaline continued as they grooved into the next classic “Givin’ Up,” from Permission to Land.
Fans continued to jam along as Poullain walked up front and pulled out a Cowbell for the next “One Way Ticket,” from 2005’s One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back, that got everyone to clap along. Justin ruled the stage with his endless charm as they moved into “Love Is Only a Feeling.” Before introducing the next tune, Justin demanded the crowd to sing along with him even if it makes no sense whenever he pointed the microphone out towards the audience. Fans screamed out “Whole weekend recovery!” Justin teased the audience with this tune until they finally went into “Friday Night,” from Permission to Land.
The set changed slightly as a large keyboard was set across the middle of the stage just before it was time to go into the next “English Country Garden,” from One Way Ticket To Hell …and Back. The song echoed in a familiar mid nineties sound where at points Justin sounded similar to Rivers Cuomo from Weezer during their earlier years. This did not last long as shortly after, Justin acknowledged the supporting act RavenEye and the local band Best Behavior as he shouted out they were from New York. A member in the crowd screamed out, “From Brooklyn!” to correct the location as Justin continued to use his humor and went on with “Oh, I thought they were from New York? Ok, Brook Line.” Justin continued to talk about New York as he mentioned the next song is dedicated to the tall New York City Skylines and went into “Every Inch of You,” from 2012’s Hot Cakes.
During the next, “Get Your Hands Off My Woman,” from Permission to Land, Justin walked up the riser of the drumset, moved upside down and split his legs out across the air, donned a pair of sunglasses, and then asked the audience to sing in the next “Stuck in a Rut.” Justin carried out his energy even further as he engaged with the audience and asked, “Who loves the Darkness tonight?” Fans screamed in approval as Justin looked into the crowd and said, “I didn’t need to ask. Thanks you guys!” Taylor created a drum roll as they moved into the alleged final song of the evening, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” There was a tremendous amount of energy between the band and the audience as everyone together got lost in the moment.
After a brief break, The Darkness returned, and this time around they brought Timmy Cappello as a guest appearance on the saxophone. With that, the night concluded with “Concrete” and “Love on the Rocks With No Ice” where Justin crowd-surfed multiple times. One of these stunts included him climbing up the balcony and jumping down directly into the pit. For a moment, it was scary, but in the end it brought back the rawness of Rock -n- Roll.
With a memorable show, The Darkness was just as exciting and colorful as their previous visit to New York City. While the latest run in North America is now concluded, judging by the positive fanfare, it will only be a matter of time When The Darkness come back.