The Darkness + Kris Barras Band

December 16th
Review and Photos Rebecca Bush

The Darkness have been trailing a path of pure rock and roll brilliance across the country through November and December before reaching Shepherds Bush Empire for a two night stretch to round it all off in style. Tonight is the first of those two shows and I am more than happy for this to be my last show of the year before putting down the camera and slipping into my Christmas PJs with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie!

Tonight’s support comes not from billed act Massive Wagons – Covid still seems set to throw a spanner in the works. Stepping up to the plate at the last minute are half of popular outfit ‘Kris Barras Band’ who take to the stage for an impromptu acoustic set.

The crowd seems more than happy for the duo to be in attendance tonight and give them a warm welcome. They play a lively set and definitely are worthy replacements; it may be a change of pace but the acoustic setting isn’t at all out of place and they warm the crowd up nicely for tonight’s main event.

Hats off to them for bringing such a great performance at the last minute and proving what a class act they are.

The Darkness are pure unadulterated rock and roll through and through, everything you want from a rock show is encapsulated here, right from the get go they are high energy full of life and solid showmanship.

They take to the stage to – of course – screams of excitement. These times have indeed been testing and to be stood in front of a stage ready for what promises to be a night of absolute joy, all united by our love of the band and great music seems like nothing short of a miracle right now.

The band are all smiles as they appear on stage. They have such a great presence, instantly they own the whole space with their larger than life personalities. Taking newest album ‘Motorheart’ on the road for its release in November was a perfect opportunity to give it the exposure it deserves. By now they have played the new tracks across several dates and they now sit comfortably amongst all the firm favourites and they get just as enthusiastic a response.

To be honest these guys could sing the phone book and we’d all go wild, their sense of fun is equal to their collective talents and every moment of this spectacular is a joy. Justin has a few costume changes throughout the set one of which is a gold open fronted jumpsuit – classic Darkness fashion – literally.

Giving him the freedom to leap and bound across the stage, he hits those high notes seemingly effortlessly, flicking his long blonde locks and interacting with the crowd as they sing in unison with him. It’s so wonderful to see a band genuinely happy and connected to their fans. I was happy that ‘Growing on Me’ got an early outing as I wasn’t expecting to be in the pit for any of the earlier stuff and it’s one of my favourites, so happy early Christmas to me!

The whole set was hit after hit, other earlier tracks had an outing such as ‘Givin’ Up’, ‘Friday Night’ and ‘Black Shuck’ all perfectly executed and full of that special Darkness magic. They really are purely and simply a great rock and roll band.

Obviously Justin is a wonderful front man, charismatic and animated with one impressive set of pipes. Then there is bassist Frankie Poullain looking like he has been transported straight from the 70’s, strutting and assuming many a rock star stance, and Dan Hawkins, ever cool and faultless in his playing. Not forgetting Rufus Tiger Taylor keeping them in time with his punchy and feverous drumming.

After a thrilling set the band take a break before the much anticipated encore, pulling out all the stops dressed in full festive attire – how Rufus was able to play dressed in an inflatable Christmas tree costume is a mystery to me! Justin swapped the gold for a sparkly red jumpsuit and Santa hat, Dan in slightly more understated Christmas jumper, Frankie as I want to say an inflatable Christmas fairy(?) and of course a Christmas Lobster on percussion ….

There was half hearted interaction from the crowd for a rendition of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ before exclaiming ”that’s enough of that lets do our one!”, much to everyone’s delight. Add a final dash of magic with falling snow and the show is complete. A total stonker of a show and what a way to wind up what has been yet again quite the rollercoaster of a year – well done lads, keep spreading your brand of rock and roll cheer!!​