Imagine a rock 'n roll Xanadu where men with flowing Rapunzel tresses, their unspeakably manly bulges straining the seams of their nothing-left-to-the-imagination harlequin unitards, ride unicorns across cocaine-and-glitter-dusted fields as they strum flying-V guitars. Imagine if Andrew W.K. sang like Freddie Mercury on a helium-balloon binge. Imagine Van Halen had replaced Diamond David Lee Roth with the bastard lovechild of Scorpions frontman Klaus Meine and Skid Row pretty-boy Sebastian Bach instead of with Sammy Hagar or Gary Cherone. Or just imagine if Tenacious D weren't a joke band. Hell, imagine if Spinal Tap weren't a joke band.
Well, that was exactly the vibe when righteously reunited rockers the Darkness--who are currently touring the U.S., working on their long-delayed third album, and starring in a hilarious Samsung commercial--returned to their obvious spiritual home, Hollywood's Sunset Strip, this past Sunday to play the House Of Blues, riding up on their white swans with a magnum opus setlist of balls-to-the-wall, Def-Leppardian hair-metal that Rick Allen would probably give his other arm to play.
And despite their long absence from the scene (their second album, the horrifically underrated One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back, came out in 2005), Justin Hawkins and crue still seemed perfectly preserved in spandex, blissfully unaware that it is no longer 1986, or even 2006.
Yes, on that HoB stage, the Britrock band's original lineup expertly recreated a world where Rikki Rachtman still hosts the Headbanger's Ball, David Lee Roth still has hair, Slash 'n' Axl are still making beautiful music together in some groupie-infested opium den overlooking the Sunset Strip, Tommy Lee never stopped skin-bashing for Motley Crue, and Kiss never took their makeup off in the first place. It was enough to make anyone wish for such simpler times.
In all honesty, the Darkness's pop-metal shouldn't have worked when the band debuted in 2003, and it certainly shouldn't work in 2012, since '80s stadium rock is still perhaps the most maligned subgenre in all of popular music. Simply put, on paper, the Darkness's gleeful and unabashed pillaging of this era should come across as one big Aqua-Net-soaked joke. But on the HoB stage, it still came down to the band's undeniably impeccable pop songwriting on virally infectious glam numbers like "Growing On Me," "Friday Night," "Is It Just Me," and of course "I Believe In A Thing Called Love." It was amazing how well these songs held up at the House Of Blues, as Justin unhingedly wailed them in his still-shockingly-intact falsetto while rocking a stars-'n'-stripes Easy Rider ensemble or cut-to-the-navel catsuit.
And then, just to prove the Darkness aren't all about hair-metal nostalgia, they covered a song from an entirely different era, Radiohead's "Street Spirit." Yes, that actually happened. And it was awesome, as the band surprisingly transformed the angsty alt-rock classic into a Scorpions-style super-power-ballad.
Yup, the Darkness are back to rock us like hurricanes, just when we need them most. Permission to land? Permission granted. It's their world once again.
Oh, and opening the show was the awesomely monikered, 12-legged Cincinnati rock 'n' roll machine known as Foxy Shazam, whose most recent album, The Church Of Rock And Roll, was actually produced by Justin Hawkins. Playing a gut-, ball-, and genre-busting set bursting at the leather-pants-seams with over-the-top theatricality and cheek-tongued rawk ridiculousness, the Foxys made quite an impression, with Chachi/Leif Garrett-styled Camaro-rocker Eric Sean Nally (a true showman just for his handlebar 'stache and Fauntleroy-fringed mullet alone) dry-humping mic stands and his hapless bandmates like an unfixed mutt; chewing up a mouthful of lit cigarettes; and belting out genius wackjob lines like "that's the biggest black ass I've ever seen, but I like it" and "the only way to my heart is with an axe" in an alien wail that was equal parts Allison Moyet, Pee Wee Herman, Meat Loaf, and the Little Caesar's pizza-guy cartoon.
If ever there was a band worthy of opening for the Darkness, it was these guys.
- David Lee Roth
- Justin Hawkins