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!"
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.