46 min read

Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM

Tonight, it’s another jolly back to Nottingham and the East Midlands best Music venue, ROCK CITY. Just look through their history, at the names of the greats who have trodden the hallowed boards of this historic venue.

The first band Scheduled were Iron Maiden but issues with the venue prevented them playing, the opening slot being taken by Fergal Sharkey and the Undertones, finishing their set with the classic Teenage Kicks. Others include David Bowie, Duran Duran, The Ramones, Guns n Roses, Pearl Jam and Rage Against The Machine, There are countless others, to many to mention in fact, but it’s become a must stop venue on many if not all bands during their careers.

Tonight, sees the return of the Mighty, “The Darkness”, a band I’ve seen here numerous times and have always brought the party element and delivered a knock out show. With them tonight they have a band I’ve yet to see live. So first let’s have a look at who Band Nerves are:

Bad Nerves burst onto the music scene like a sonic adrenaline shot, injecting a much-needed jolt of energy into the English pop rock punk scene. Formed in 2016 in London, this explosive quintet quickly became the torchbearers of a new wave of punk, infusing their music with infectious hooks, unbridled energy, and a rebellious spirit that captures the essence of punk rock.

At the helm of Bad Nerves is the dynamic duo of Bobby Nerves (vocals) and Will Power(guitar/backing vocals), The band’s line-up is rounded out by Jon Poulten (bass) George Berry (guitar/ Backing vocals), and Sam Morley(drums).

This tight-knit group brings a diverse range of influences to the table, blending elements of classic punk, power pop, and rock ‘n’ roll with a modern twist.

Their infectious sound is characterized by razor-sharp guitar riffs, pulsating basslines, and relentless drumming, creating a sonic assault that hits you like a punch to the gut. Bobby Nerves’ raw and charismatic vocals serve as the perfect vehicle for delivering anthemic choruses and rebellious lyrics, echoing the spirit of punk’s golden era while maintaining a contemporary edge.

Bad Nerves’ look is a nod to the punk aesthetic, with a stylish blend of vintage punk fashion and a modern, edgy flair. Their stage presence is electrifying, and their live shows are a visceral experience that leaves audiences sweaty, exhilarated, and craving more, more of which later.

The band’s rise to prominence was marked by a series of explosive live performances in the London circuit, gaining them a dedicated fanbase and catching the attention of music journalists and industry insiders alike. Their relentless touring schedule took them across the UK and Europe, solidifying their reputation as an unmissable live act.

In 2017, Bad Nerves unleashed their self-titled debut EP, a four-track sonic rollercoaster that showcased their knack for crafting infectious hooks and rebellious anthems. The EP included standout tracks like “Radio Punk” and “Dreaming,” which quickly became fan favourites.

Building on the momentum of their debut, Bad Nerves continued to make waves with a string of electrifying single releases, including “Can’t Be Mine,” “New Shapes,” and “Electric 88.” Each release reinforced their reputation as a band unafraid to push boundaries and redefine the sound of modern punk.

As they gear up for the future, Bad Nerves remains a force to be reckoned with, channelling the rebellious spirit of punk into a fresh and invigorating sound. With their infectious energy, memorable tunes, and a DIY ethos that harks back to punk’s roots, Bad Nerves is poised to leave an indelible mark on the music landscape for years to come.

So, with that being said let’s get to the “LIVE BIT”

Alright, buckle up, because last night’s Bad Nerves gig at Rock City was nothing short of an absolute riot, a punk rock explosion that has left the crowd sweaty, exhilarated, and craving more. From the moment the lights dimmed and the familiar riff of “Don’t Stop” reverberated through the venue, it became clear that we were in for a wild ride, and obvious why Justin and the boys have included them on this tour.

The opening chords of “Don’t Stop” set the tone for the set—a blistering sonic assault that hits you like a punch in the face. The energy in the room was intense, and the crowd wasted no time diving headfirst into a mosh pit, creating a sea of flailing limbs and frenzied movement.

As “Baby Drummer” kicks in, it becomes apparent that Bad Nerves are not here to mess around. The song’s infectious rhythm and pulsating beat have the entire venue bouncing along in unison. The drummer, Sam Morley, lives up to his moniker, pounding the drums with a ferocity that was nothing short of awe-inspiring. “Baby Drummer” is a tribute to the band’s ability to craft songs that not only get your heart racing but also make you want to dance like there’s no tomorrow.

The energy reached new heights with “Palace,” a track that had the crowd chanting along to the anthemic chorus. The bouncing and sing-alongs created a sense of camaraderie, as if everyone in the room was part of a punk rock brotherhood. The venue was a swirling mass of bodies, all caught up in the infectious energy emanating from the stage.

“Terminal Boy” followed in quick succession, a high-octane, fast-paced onslaught that left no room to catch your breath. The guitars of Will Power and George Berry, blaze with fury, and Bobby Nerves’ vocals cut through the chaos like a sonic weapon. The crowd responded with a collective surge of adrenaline, feeding off the band’s intensity.

Then came the moment we had all been waiting for— “Radio Punk.” The opening chords trigger an explosion of craziness in the crowd. Bodies collided, and the pit became a whirlwind of chaos. The song’s rebellious spirit and infectious chorus turned Rock City into a punk rock haven, with Bad Nerves at the helm, steering the ship through the storm.

“Electric 88” showcases the band’s versatility, with a sound that draws comparisons to punk legends of yesteryear, namely the Ramones, while maintaining a modern edge. The infectious guitar riff and pulsating bassline of Jon Poulton have the crowd grooving along, nodding in appreciation of the band’s ability to seamlessly blend the old with the new.

“USA” is a sonic journey that transports us across the Atlantic, capturing the essence of the American garage punk scene of yester-year. The song’s driving rhythm and rebellious lyrics resonate with the crowd, who respond with fists raised and voices shouting in unison. It was a moment of pure punk unity, as if Rock City had momentarily transformed into a basement venue in the heart of the USA.

“Can’t Be Mine” showcased Bobby Nerves’ vocal prowess, with his raw and charismatic delivery cutting through the sonic onslaught. The crowd swaying along to the melodic verses before erupting into a frenzy during the explosive chorus. It was a testament to the band’s ability to craft songs that are not only high-energy but also possess a melodic sensibility that lingers long after the show ends.

“Mad Mind” brought a change of pace, a darker and more brooding side of Bad Nerves’ sonic palette. Prior to them running amuck with this banger, they stood silent as the crowd clapped them, statues in amongst the smoke and then they suddenly burst into life. The song’s haunting melody and introspective lyrics create a moody atmosphere, showcasing the band’s range and depth. The crowd, ever-responsive, absorbed the atmospheric vibes before gearing up for the final assault.

And then came the set closer, when asked if the crowed wanted a last song The crowd’s response was nothing short of unanimous. And so the band launched into “Dreaming,” complete with its anthemic chorus, it seems the entire venue erupted into a chorus of voices, singing along at the top of their lungs. The energy reaches its zenith, while the band feed off the crowd’s enthusiasm, enabling them to deliver a performance that will be hard to forget, they have made a few more fans tonight, for sure.

As the final notes of “Dreaming” echo through Rock City, the band took a moment to soak in the adulation of the crowd. Sweat-soaked and breathless, Bad Nerves have delivered a live experience that excelled the typical gig. It was indeed a celebration of punk rock in its purest form, a visceral and electrifying journey that has left many craving more. If tonight’s performance is any indication, Bad Nerves are poised to take the punk rock world by storm, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future.

The transition between Bad Nerves’ explosive set and The Darkness taking the stage is, as always, a well-oiled machine, orchestrated by a super-efficient crew that clear the stage with military precision. As the crew worked their magic, the security team wasted no time in ensuring that the hot, sweaty fans were taken care of, handing out water to the grateful crowd.

The heat in the venue was growing, a by-product of the intense energy generated during Bad Nerves’ performance and the fact that we have a full house once again. The crowd, still buzzing from the adrenaline-fueled punk rock spectacle, engaged in animated chatter about the highlights of the set. The excitement creates a sense of camaraderie among the fans, each eager to relive the moments that had just unfolded on stage.

Amidst the chatter, the bustling crowd wriggle and jostle at the full bar, a cause of the sold-out show’s heaving capacity. The efficient bar staff worked tirelessly to serve the eager fans, who clamour for their favourite drinks in the midst of the electrifying anticipation for The Darkness’ upcoming performance.

The atmosphere in the venue is electric, a fusion of lingering excitement from Bad Nerves’ set and the anticipation of what The Darkness had in store. As the lights dim and the crowd collectively hold its breath, if only momentarily, the venue transforms into a pressure cooker of anticipation, ready to explode once again with the infectious energy of live music. But first let’s have a resume of one of the UK’s hottest bands around, a band that bring joy and happiness to every show. Live Music doesn’t get any better than The Darkness!

The Darkness—a band that’s not just a musical experience, but a full-blown spectacle of flamboyance, energy, and unapologetic rock ‘n’ roll. These British rock gods burst onto the scene in the early 2000s, and they’ve been shaking the foundations of the music world ever since.

Let’s kick off this sonic journey with their debut album, “Permission to Land” (2003), after all this is what tonight is all about. Released like a bolt of lightning, it catapulted The Darkness into the rock stratosphere. Anthems like “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and “Growing on Me” became instant classics, and the album earned them critical acclaim and a devoted fanbase. It was a rocket ride to stardom that left everyone craving more including myself.

Following the explosive success of their debut, The Darkness didn’t miss a beat. “One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back” (2005) showcased their ability to maintain their signature sound while pushing the boundaries of their musical prowess. Tracks like “Is It Just Me?” and “One Way Ticket” solidified their status as rock’s reigning champions.

Then came “Hot Cakes” (2012), a triumphant return after a brief hiatus. The album was a testament to The Darkness’s resilience and their unwavering commitment to delivering rock anthems that stick to your soul. “Everybody Have a Good Time” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” proved they were back and louder than ever.

In 2015, “Last of Our Kind” continued the saga, exploring darker themes while maintaining the unbridled energy that defines The Darkness. This album is a sonic journey through mythical landscapes and anthems like “Barbarian” and “Open Fire” showcase their ability to craft stories that resonate with the rebellious spirit of rock.

In 2017 we have “Pinewood Smile” released in the March and is the first to feature ‘Rufus ‘Tiger’ Taylor’. It spawned the single “Buccaneers of Hispaniola” a live version being the pre-release for “Live In Hammersmith” album released in 2018.

“Easter Is Cancelled” was released in October 2019. The single “Rock and Roll deserves To Die” was pre-leased in the August. A UK tour followed, each date the band played two sets, Easter Is Cancelled in its entirety and then a set of all The Darkness greats that everyone wanted to hear.

In 2021 “Motorheart” was released, although the original date was delayed the album eventually dropped in the November to critical acclaim. The single “Motorheart” was released in August as a pre-release. I believe the reason was down to supplies of vinyl due to covid killing the world off.

Now, let’s talk about the maestros behind this sonic revolution. Justin Hawkins, the living embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll flamboyance and pure, unadulterated charisma. As the frontman of The Darkness, he’s not just a singer; he’s a sonic wizard with a voice that soars higher than your wildest dreams. With his signature catsuits, wild falsetto, and blistering guitar skills, Justin is the glitter-covered maestro leading us through a world of anthemic rock. He’s the kind of rockstar who can melt your face with a guitar solo and then charm your socks off with a cheeky grin. Justin Hawkins is more than a musician; he’s a force of nature, a rock deity, and the reason you believe in the magic of rock ‘n’ roll. All hail the rock royalty that is Justin Hawkins!

His brother,Dan Hawkins, the unsung hero of The Darkness and the wizard behind those electrifying guitar riffs. With a cool demeanour and a knack for crafting killer hooks, Dan is the backbone of the band’s sonic onslaught. He’s the rocksteady force that complements Justin’s flamboyance, delivering the powerhouse guitar licks that define The Darkness’s unmistakable sound. Whether he’s melting faces with a face-melting solo or laying down the foundation for a rock anthem, Dan Hawkins is the silent powerhouse that keeps the rock ‘n’ roll engine roaring. In the grand symphony of The Darkness, Dan’s guitar prowess is the heartbeat that keeps us all grooving. Rock on, DaN.

Frankie Poullain, the bass maestro of The Darkness and the secret weapon in the arsenal of rock ‘n’ roll glory. With his groovy basslines and a stage presence that exudes cool, Frankie is the heartbeat that adds the funk to The Darkness’s sonic extravaganza. Whether he’s holding down the rhythm or stealing the spotlight with his infectious energy, Frankie is the unsung hero that keeps the rock ‘n’ roll train on track. In a band known for its flamboyance, Frankie Poullain brings the grounded coolness that completes the rock ‘n’ roll trinity. Bass in hand, he’s the steady hand that ensures The Darkness’s music not only rocks but grooves.

Here’s to Frankie, the funky soul of The Darkness! and Rufus ‘Tiger’ Taylor, the drumming dynamo of The Darkness and the rhythmic heartbeat that propels their rock anthems to new heights. With lightning-fast fills, impeccable timing, and an infectious energy, Tiger is the powerhouse behind the drum kit that keeps The Darkness in perfect sonic sync. Whether he’s driving the band forward with thunderous beats or stealing the show with his dynamic stage presence, Rufus ‘Tiger’ Taylor is the rhythmic force that elevates The Darkness’s live performances to a whole new level. In a world of rock ‘n’ roll, Tiger is the wild, untamed spirit that roars through every beat. Here’s to the drummer extraordinaire who ensures The Darkness’s music not only rocks but rocks hard.

When it comes to live shows, The Darkness doesn’t just perform—they put on a spectacle. Over the years, they’ve shared stages with legends like Def Leppard, Judas Priest, and Queen, proving they can hold their own alongside the giants of rock. Their live performances are a high-energy celebration of everything rock ‘n’ roll should be—loud, outrageous, and downright entertaining.

And guess what? The Darkness is celebrating the 20th anniversary of “Permission to Land” with a tour that’s blowing the roof off venues across the country leading up to Christmas, in fact they are playing two dates at Rock City, the next being on the 19th. It’s testimony to the enduring impact of their debut album and a chance for fans, both old and new, to experience the magic that started it all.

The backstory of The Darkness is one for the rock ‘n’ roll history books. Formed in 2000 in Lowestoft, England, they set out with a mission—to bring back the glory days of rock. Their rise to fame was meteoric, fuelled by their infectious energy, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and a genuine love for the music that defined their existence.

Musically, The Darkness is a glorious concoction of glam rock, classic rock, and a healthy dose of theatricality. Their sound is a throwback to the golden era of rock, with influences ranging from Queen to AC/DC. It’s a veritable sonic rollercoaster that takes you on a journey through the highs and lows of life, all set to the backdrop of blistering guitar solos and anthemic choruses.

In a world that sometimes forgets the sheer joy of unapologetic rock ‘n’ roll, The Darkness stands as a beacon of light. Their music is a celebration of life, love, and the unbridled spirit of rebellion. So, if you’re ready to let loose and experience the sonic ecstasy that is The Darkness, buckle up, because you’re in for one hell of a ride.

So, with that behind us and the stage set, lets enjoy the best night of the week! As in the previously mentioned hallowed grounds of Rock City Nottingham, The Darkness are set to take centre stage for an unforgettable night of nostalgia, musical mastery, and the legendary catsuit theatrics of frontman Justin Hawkins. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their iconic debut album “Permission to Land,” the band will transform Rock City into a rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza that will be talked about long into the night.

So, now we get to hold on to our catsuits and get ready to rock, As ABBA plays over the house PA, we know we are seconds away from diving into the electrifying world of The Darkness. Tonight’s journey kicks off with the thunderous opening chords of “Black Shuck,” a sonic tidal wave that sweeps the audience into The Darkness’s flamboyant, theatrical world. Justin Hawkins, a vision in his flamboyant catsuit open to below the navel, as always, takes command of the stage with a magnetic presence that only he could deliver. The crowd, a sea of mesmerized faces, erupts into cheers as the acrobatic frontman defies gravity with his trademark leaps and bounds.

“Get Your Hands Off My Woman” follows, but not before Hawkins has told the crowd to put their phones away, and the venue genuinely reverberates with the infectious energy of The Darkness’s classic hits. With a failed attempt at a headstand due to lack of room, Hawkins leaps into the crowd, but not before he casts a mischevious look at his band mates. The crowd catch him as he backstrokes around the hall before being deposited back at the barrier.

The undeniably catchy “Growing on Me” and the anthemic “The Best of Me” demonstrates the band’s ability to effortlessly blend cheeky humour with rock prowess, The crowd are loving every second, the venue is a sea of bouncing happy faces and Justin’s loving every moment of it.

The setlist unfolds like a greatest hits journey, it’s a phenomenal album with each song eliciting cheers of recognition and excitement from the crowd. “Makin’ Out,” “Givin’ Up,” “Love is Only A Feeling,” and “Stuck in a Rut” seamlessly transports everyone back to the early 2000s, capturing the rebellious spirit of “Permission to Land.” This is what the fans want and The Darkness are delivering with all the subtlety of a slap from Frank Bruno.

A touching moment ensues with “How Dare You Call This Love?”— previously this has been a dedication to Frankie’s mum. The sincere performance adding a layer of emotion to the night, again demonstrating the band’s connection not just with the audience but with each other.

The surprise inclusion of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” demonstrates The Darkness ability to reinvent and own any song, infusing it with their unique flamboyant flair. This was a cover that appears on the 2012 album Hot Cakes, as all the true fans will undoubtedly know. The audience, captivated by anything the band throw at them including this unexpected cover, bounce along joyously as they sing along in a collective moment of musical harmony.

The Darkness continue to own the stage with a mesmerizing performance of “Holding My Own” seamlessly follows before effortlessly slipping into and “Friday Night.” Once again, Justin Hawkins’ soaring vocals, coupled with electrifying guitar riffs supplied by brother Dan, create an unforgettable experience. The crowd are being swept along in the sonic embrace of this album full of anthems that indeed show off the band’s dynamic range and infectious energy. Pure rock euphoria! And what an album.

As the set progresses, The Darkness finally delve into their festive locker, its only 10 days before the big fella in a red suit breaks into your house and leaves more tat, so this can only mean it’s time for Justin’s otherworldly falsetto and “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End),” this, as always, delivers a perfect blend of holiday cheer and rock ‘n’ roll spirit. The venue is instantly transformed into a sea of swaying bodies and smiling faces, thusly creating yet another moment of pure magic, the night has been full of so many.

Another treat for the night is the inclusion of The Darkness’s rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” without doubt its a sonic triumph, channelling raw energy and electrifying charisma. Justin asks if the crowd want them to finish it, off course we do! With blistering guitar solos and a vocal performance that rivals the original, they honour the classic while making it uniquely their own, if a little on the shortened side. There’s a great YouTube video of them playing it acoustically, live on Radio2, well worth a watch. A true fan’s delight! Complete with the Justin spin, I didn’t see that one coming, terrific!

The climax of the night has to be the unmistakable opening riff to the most beloved of all ‘Darkness’ songs, yes, I’m talking about “I Believe in a Thing Called Love.” Justin’s teases the song and gets the balcony to battle with the main hall before bursting into the song proper. The crowd, united in a chorus of euphoria, become an integral part of the night’s sonic spectacle as they sing along to this timeless classic, some I dare say are even in tune.

The encore is a grand finale of epic pantomime proportions. “I Love You 5 Times” sees Dan Hawkins take the drums, Frankie Poullain on guitar, and Rufus ‘Tiger’ Taylor on bass, dressed dressing gowns, it’s a fun moment but one that again showcases the individual virtuosity of each band member. Softie the guitar tech even features as he comes out to play the keys. The night concludes with the iconic “Love on the Rocks With No Ice,” and this leaves Rock City Nottingham bathed in the afterglow of a truly unforgettable celebration, Justin reminds everyone that he’s back in four days for another night with the band. It’s yet another sold out night and promises to be another hell raiser.

So, as we slowly make our way out, the chatter is all about what a show that’s just been delivered. In every soaring note, every acrobatic feat, and every catsuit-clad moment, The Darkness proved that “Permission to Land” is not just an album; it’s a living, breathing authentication to the enduring power of rock ‘n’ roll.

The 20th-anniversary tour has reached Rock City, Nottingham, it has been a spectacle of epic proportions, as if there was ever going to be any doubt, it’s been a tribute to a band that refuses to be confined by time. The Darkness, with their unmatched charisma and musical prowess, have again left Rock City Nottingham echoing with the resonant cheers of a crowd that had just witnessed rock royalty at its finest. Huzzah what a band, here’s to the next anniversary tour. Once again, it’s been Live Music at its best!

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