The Darkness, SECC, Glasgow

Lycra-clad motley fools
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The Independent Culture

Quite clearly, it is now make-or-break time for The Darkness. When they first hit the top last year, a collection of insufferably catchy singles and the poodle-permed Justin Hawkins's quite frankly ridiculous wardrobe of catsuits in tow, they seemed to fill a void that the country hadn't known existed. No longer were the pomp-rocking days of every Eighties fashion car-wreck from Aerosmith to ZZ Top by way of Def Leppard, Europe and their unkempt ilk a guilty nostalgic pleasure. Instead, ridiculous men in ridiculous Lycra were the zeitgeist.

Quite clearly, it is now make-or-break time for The Darkness. When they first hit the top last year, a collection of insufferably catchy singles and the poodle-permed Justin Hawkins's quite frankly ridiculous wardrobe of catsuits in tow, they seemed to fill a void that the country hadn't known existed. No longer were the pomp-rocking days of every Eighties fashion car-wreck from Aerosmith to ZZ Top by way of Def Leppard, Europe and their unkempt ilk a guilty nostalgic pleasure. Instead, ridiculous men in ridiculous Lycra were the zeitgeist.

It's been a whole year, however, since the London-based quartet felt so secure in their own extravagance to release "Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)" - the first proper Christmas single in years, boy bands and novelty hits notwithstanding. Creditably, the tactic was a huge success for them. But 12 months is a long time to be relatively inert, and - as The Darkness's first full-blown arena tour of the land kicks off - even those fans who are so diehard as to feel unselfconscious digging out an old Iron Maiden T-shirt for the occasion have a right to ask whether the joke is at all funny any more.

Hawkins and his cohorts (brother Dan on guitar; Ed Graham on drums; Frankie Poullain on bass) seem to have taken a cue from their spiritual predecessors Spinal Tap when it comes to bettering themselves. It's the same riffs, the same costumes, the same gaudy stage show - only this time they've cranked it all the way up to 11. With more money spent on their set, increasingly bombastic choruses and the band's unflappable willingness to look utterly ludicrous in the name of the cause, The Darkness grow closer to the space they have mapped out for themselves. Think big, act bigger, become massive.

They don't come much bigger, then, than the rumble of the brand-new opener "Grief Hammer". Along with similar debut tracks (the vaguely silly "Dinner Lady Arms"; the noodling, cod-psychedelic "English Country Garden" (changed to "Scottish Country Garden" here, as it inevitably will be on every subsequent visit north of the border), The Darkness proved they have lost none of their incisive knack for writing easy-to-sing power choruses. It is also glaringly apparent just how many they had already - there are the singles "Growing On Me" and "Get Your Hands Off My Woman", but also back-of-the-rack specials such as "Friday Night" and "Givin' Up". And, of course, love it or loathe it, "I Believe in a Thing Called Love", which will be a chucking-out-time anthem for years to come.

Explosions roared and flame-throwers gushed forth throughout, while the crowd were showered with silver confetti at the close of a prematurely seasonal second encore of "Christmas Time". Yet nothing can quite match the sight of Justin riding a pulley-operated white tiger above the crowd while blasting forth yet another power riff - it's a ridiculous and strangely iconic sight, but he's going to have to better it in the future if he wants to keep us laughing.

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