Review by Ivor Whitten for MPM
The Limelight was ready for another night of joyous rock as Justin and Dan Hawkins had rolled into town and that could only mean one thing. The Darkness were ready to rock away those pandemic blues. Tonight, they were joined by The Love Buzz, all the way from the Independent Republic of Cork!
Having travelled all the way from one end of the Island of Ireland to the other, the plucky bunch of lads The Love Buzz came onto the stage with a wonderful youthful swagger.
An eclectic looking band that looked like they had trawled through a vintage shop that covered the ages from the 1960s right up to the 2020s. Their look and style immediately gave us all a certain feeling that this band was either going to crash and burn or we were all going to have some great craic. And from Keiran Hurley’s first uttered words everyone relaxes. From the first refrains of the guitar everyone knows this will be a great night.
This punkadelic group of nutcases takes the crowd on a journey of energetic enthusiasm with a knowing wink and a smile as they blast out “Here Comes the Scum”. Like a cross between Wheezer, Nirvana and the Arctic Monkeys they delivered a truly unique indie punk rhythm that was just infectious.
They seemed determined to keep it going as they then dropped “Ken’s Charm”, “Harp” and “Disco Junkie 1200”, all wonderfully energetic, fun and delivered with a real professional passion. They finished their set with “Ellis Dee” and “Sainsbury’s” to a fully engaged crowd that had now been given a taster for what these boys can hand out. Check out their songs on Spotify to get a taste of their brilliant observational punk rock.
Then came The Darkness. Honestly, at this stage what can be said about Justin, Dan and the lads that has not already been said. It just feels now like repetitive hyperbole and rhetoric.
You will read how they performed on the night, but let’s be honest, you hear the name The Darkness and know that you are going to leave with a massive smile on your face remembering all the mad things Justin got up to, the tight delivery of their catalogue and the camaraderie of everyone in that building.
To lovely lowkey Gaelic musical refrain there was only one song that was going to kick the whole night off and that was “Welcome Tae Glasgae”. There was little time before the next song and that was “One Way Ticket” and of course the whole place wholeheartedly joined in, letting Justin take the odd break on the chorus.
Up next was “Growing on Me” “Motorheart”, and “Open Fire” to keep the crowd well exercised and moshing all the while Justin kept up his on-stage antics that thrilled quite a few. There were a few moments that there was a rush forward by ladies and gentlemen eager to capture Justin’s eye.
Next on the massive The Darkness fitness regime was “Sticky Situations”, “Givin’ Up”, and “It’s Love, Jim”, each one delivered as an absolute performance on its own merits. The crowd was rapturous with every move that The Darkness, and Justin in particular, made. At one stage Justin started collecting donations for a charity, probably a cat charity.
And without any resistance people provided £87 and five Euros, ostensibly to have one of his crew shave his beard on stage. The number of people surging forward to donate a few pounds each was just madness. The most interesting moment was when Justin showed his true superhero aspect by catching a twenty pence piece on his bicep, and it just stuck there.
Of course, between tracks he had plenty of banter with the fans, just like a true well rounded comedian and everyone just felt closer with lots of new friends and acquaintances being made that night.
And Justin would not be Justin without a few costume changes going from a normal rock legend attire to begin with and then halfway through changing to his iconic rock god golden leotard like costume. Honestly, in a certain light and in some of his exaggerated poses the ghost of Bon Scott just shone through.
The musical mayhem continued with “Black Shuck”, “Heart Explodes” and “Friday Night”, all the while the majestic multitude that crammed the Limelight were swaying, singing, shouting, roaring along with Justin. It is no exaggeration to note that Justin had the crowd enraptured in his spell of silly seriousness with people not only coming from Belfast and the surrounding areas, there were attendees from across Ireland and Scotland.
They were there to see a truly professional band of musical performers take them away from the troubled travails of modern-day issues and transport them off to a magical world of intense musical joy. And this was indeed a one-way ticket to pure joy.
The feelings and intensity never skipped a beat with “Love Is Only a Feeling”, “Japanese Prisoner of Love” and “Solid Gold”. The crowd roared with approval when Justin and his brothers in arms made to the call of “Barbarian” and then on into “Get Your Hands Off My Woman”.
Then came the obligatory encore with “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and that one more costume change, that left little to the imagination of the attendees. And Justin owned that like he always did. He is a tour de force of pure performatory confidence and seems to come from the same school as Freddy Mercury.
Overall, the two bands were well suited for the same bill. Definitely keep your eye out for The Love Buzz, as these lads will go far and up. Their energy, sass, style and musical rhythm are infectious and unforgettable. Meanwhile, with The darkness, as stated at the start, you know what you are getting overall, a fantastic night well worth going to, just not always what the journey will be like.
Just know that every moment will be pure joy and laughter. The Darkness rocked their backsides off, sparing nothing to ensure the crowd were entertained. That is a show you want to go to. Their tour continues and if you get the chance to get a ticket to see The Darkness, don’t miss out. You won’t regret it.
Feature Photo by Darren Mcveigh for MPM
Photos in Review by Manny Manson from NRC