Face it: Whether you love or loathe the Darkness, the group's songs are catchy. It's been scientifically proven that once you hear "I Believe in a Thing Called Love," fromPermission to Land
, it stays in your head for at least 1.5 hours. The exact notes lead singer Justin Hawkins hits in the chorus, specifically the "just listen to the rhythm of my heart" part, make me want to don a pantsuit so tight that I'd get camel toe.
Everyone wants to hate these four Brits. But that's OK. The Darkness is a throwback to the days when rock didn't give a shit. The songs on Permission to Land have everything required for the aforementioned stuck-in-your-headedness: catchy guitar hooks, anthemic choruses, and, most of all, a sense of fun. The rock of the late '70s -- Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Queen -- was the same; it was theatrical and in complete opposition to its contemporaries, who composed sincere, powder-fresh ballads about the decency of mankind on leather couches in Malibu beach houses.
The Darkness may be trying to re-create the Zeitgeist of that era by slapping on a leopard-print unitard and doing toe touches off the drum kit while singing in a falsetto about booze and dancing on a Friday night, STDs, and girls, girls, girls. But music is cyclical, and the rock has gotten a tad too serious as of late. The kids these days, what with their ripped jeans and skateboards, want action. And they want it tonight. That was apparent when I scanned the June 6 Darkness show in Boca Raton. Teased hair: check. Skintight jeans: check. Pyrotechnics: check. Leather vests: check. Young, nubile girls: check.
But unlike most bands that are parodies of themselves (looking at you, Velvet Revolver), the Darkness knows it's being mocked. Why wear a hot pink unitard and matching head scarf if not to invite mocking?
Hey, I'd like to see less mocking, more rocking. And that's what the Darkness delivered. With the high-pitched theatrics of Queen and the wrecking-ball guitar solos of AC/DC, the Darkness conducted a rock opera in Boca Raton. At Mizner Park. Right next to the Sunglass Hut.
The scene: A muggy Sunday night in June. The air was thick with the smell of pot, and the sky was shaking its fist at us, threatening to unleash a deluge on the sea of acid-washed jeans, Deicide T-shirts, nonironic mullets, and plastic Budweiser bottles.
Act 1: Openers the Wildhearts are buzzsawing through their set. Stage left, a man in a Spuds MacKenzie muscle T and his female companion, who was wearing turquoise stirrup pants and a teeny-weeny tank top, are arguing by the beer vendor.
Man: "You said you weren't going to see Dan tonight, and then there he is!"
Woman: "He has every right to be here! It's a free country!"
Man: "Oh yeah? If I see him in the pit, he's a goner." [drags index finger across his throat]
At the front of the stage, a slight man of roughly 70 years, dressed in a billowing blue shirt, silver bell-bottoms, and a floppy blue velvet hat and sporting a dyed-blue goatee, thrusts his pelvis to the beat. As a woman with braided blond locks flashes the band, it dedicates the next song to Ronald Reagan.
Act 2: Darkness falls over Boca Raton. Enter the Darkness. The stage lights go down, the crowd roars, and the white curtain obscuring the stage drops. Dressed in a black leather jumpsuit, lanky, long-haired Hawkins struts across the stage like a glam-rock gazelle, warning us that "In a town in the east/The parishioners were visited upon/By a curious beast." He's all cock-sure strut and metal falsetto. I can almost hear the manager in the wings: "Nigel! I told you more scarves on the mic stand! Scarves! Damn it all -- go fetch Justin's ostrich-feather hat for the next song!"
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During the Friday-night, bar-brawl anthem "Get Your Hands Off My Woman," the collective audience's heavy metal hand-pump is in effect. A young couple make out as a bearded man next to them "cell phones it in" (holding your phone up so an absentee friend can hear). Hawkins pulls an extra from the crowd on-stage to accompany him on that song's coup de grâce: "Get your hands off of my woman, mothufuckaaaaaa!" There's nothing more surreal than close to 1,000 people screaming motherfucker, especially on a Sunday in Boca.
Act 3: The Darkness finishes playing. As the stage goes dark, the rain, which had been threatening all night, comes pouring down. A man in a black T-shirt and glasses stands underneath an awning, waiting for the rain to let up and searching desperately for a lost comrade. "Has anyone seen my friend? Uh, he might have gotten arrested..."
Several minutes later, the missing friend runs over.
"Hey, I didn't get arrested!" he screams. Hugs and high-fives ensue, as do promises of celebratory adult beverages. That's love on the rocks right there, with no ice.