The Darkness, Alexandra Palace, London

Plenty of glitter, but little sparkle

In 2003, when The Darkness exploded on to the music scene with their debut album Permission To Land, the boys from Lowestoft were a refreshing return to rock as showmanship, rather than vehicle for angst and pain. Their retro template was Led Zep's riffs, Aerosmith stridency and David Lee Roth catsuits.

As its follow-up took longer to emerge, problems beset the band. The bassist, Frankie Poullain, was sacked, while the front man, Justin Hawkins, threatened to quit and broke up for a time with their manager, Sue Whitehouse. Debilitating drug habits were hinted at on the return single and album title track, "One Way Ticket to Hell... and Back". When the album arrived, it came with an overblown sound reminiscent of Queen's operatic style, ornamented with pan flute, bagpipes and tubular bells. The songs were less immediate, and the band's fortunes reached a nadir when Hawkins was booed at the World Darts Championship.

Perhaps they had refused to sanction Abba's Celtic-tinged instrumental "Arrival" as intro music, a backdrop of giant tusks and a humungous pair of breasts. That is what Hawkins arrived on, suspended in mid-air. Rather than gratuitous sexual imagery, this related to the opening number, "Knockers", in which the singer made light of his ropey bedroom skills. Even without stage props, it was a tremendous opening. The concise number showed off the tight musicianship that proved The Darkness could be more than a joke act.

It was a vibrant start that the band could not maintain. "Knockers" was followed by "One Way Ticket", Hawkins's most satisfying lyrics to date, let down only by a flat chorus. Then came the forthcoming single "Is It Just Me?", a fine update on Rainbow-era over-the-top emoting. This was one of a few new numbers that matched the sparkle of the band's breakthrough hit "I Believe In A Thing Called Love".

One Way Ticket reflected a tempestuous period for the band, but they were rarely able to transfer its subtlety into their pomp rock shtick. One exception was the acoustic-led "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time". In front of an upright piano, Hawkins gave full vent to regret over his break-up. Wisely, the rest of the band sloped off for a far less effectual ballad, "Blind Man", stuck between shallow sentiment and Hawkins's dopey humour. "Is there anybody weeping?" he ventured. No, came the reply from anyone that had not escaped to the bar.

"Good Idea" was also a chance for the new bass player, Richie Edwards, to display his versatility with a guitar. Steady facing a huge crowd for one of his first performances, he also added eerie atmospheric sounds to break up the crunching Jimmy Page riff of "Black Shuck". The guitar play of Hawkins's brother, Dan, remained as sturdy as ever, though more intricate work was beyond their reach as the set dragged on. With pedestrian backing, the instrumental breaks of the power ballad "Love Is Only a Feeling" and "Love on the Rocks with No Ice" long outstayed their welcome.

It was the front man's lack of conceit that remained the band's strongest suite. Lame and uninspiring between songs, the fans still fell for his good-natured character. Their highlight, then, must have been when Hawkins stripped off his glittering top to reveal not a washboard stomach, but paunch and love handles. Only at the very end did the singer show true star quality when he flew over the crowd and performed a guitar solo upside down. For sheer spectacle, they remained impossible to beat.

Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella

books
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Bell in the new BBC series Posh People: Inside Tatler

Review: Posh journalists just can't get enough of each other

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital