REVIEW: The Darkness at Turner Hall Ballroom

A 40-degree, dreary Tuesday night in Milwaukee isn’t exactly the most rock n’ roll thing in the world, but that didn’t stop The Darkness or their lively crowd at Turner Hall Ballroom. The band hit the stage full of fuzz, glam, and exuberance in a way that you don’t see often anymore. What was to follow was nothing short of a charismatic spectacle.

Led by frontman Justin Hawkins, the band walked out to a roar, and ripped right into the intro of “Last of Our Kind” track “Open Fire”, a fitting way to kick off the night. They wasted almost no time jumping right into the next track, “Love Is Only A Feeling”, from their breakout record, “Permission To Land”. At this point in their career, the band has learned how to keep a crowd up, and the Turner Hall crowd certainly responded accordingly.

Hawkins was the main attraction of the night, with the band hanging back, giving him the floor for most of the show. The frontman owned the spotlight, though, and made the most of the crowd. For the first couple of songs, he tried on pairs glasses from fans, in an effort to read the beer menu at the back of the ballroom. His wit was on full display, evidenced by a quick quip about a creepy gym teacher after sporting a pair of yellow tinted shades from a crowd member. Trying on other people’s clothes became a theme for the night, as Hawkins would take various hats, glasses, a jacket, and even a bra from the crowd throughout their main set. Like I said, enthusiastic crowd.

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Fifteen years removed from their debut album, the band has created a significant back catalog at this point, and the set list dipped in and out of each record. Five tracks from their most recent offering, “Pinewood Smile” made the cut, including the upbeat “All The Pretty Girls”, as well as singles “Solid Gold” and “Southern Trains”. The band closed out their main set with three tracks from “Permission To Land”: “Stuck In A Rut”, “Get Your Hands Off Of My Woman”, and “Growing On Me”. At this point, a master class in crowd control was on display, driving the energy up towards the end of the set.

The band returned for a two song encore, consisting of “Pinewood Smile” cut “Japanese Prisoner of Love”, and their biggest hit, “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”. Before the latter, Hawkins announced they had one song left, and the crowd began to yell out various song titles, prompting him to quip “I don’t know what made you think this was some sort of request situation” to a big laugh. The mood was fun and energetic, and the band sent everyone home with their singalong smash.

It’s not a huge secret that The Darkness’ biggest hit came at the beginning of their career, however the band hasn’t been brought down from that high fifteen years on. Where you might expect something of a novelty act, the band is anything but; delivering an over 70 minute main set of straight up rock n’ roll, complete with shrieking falsettos, shredding solos, and enough glam to make you forget what year it is. Hawkins admitted on stage that this wasn’t the best selling show of the tour, which to be fair, was given a tough night to be attractive in the first place, but the Milwaukee crowd, as well as The Darkness, more than made up for it with their enthusiasm.

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