The Darkness, Waterfront, Norwich
Arctic Monkeys, Don Valley Bowl, Sheffield

Ten years after their first gig, the anti-Radiohead band has fans of Britrock grinning once more

Three words are all it takes.

After the Highlander theme subsides, and opening jam "Bareback" shudders to a halt, Justin Hawkins approaches his mic and, as he did at every gig The Darkness ever played, issues the call-and-response greeting "Gimme a D! Gimme an 'Arkness!".

As I'll never tire of reminding people, I "discovered" The Darkness 10 years ago, playing a small pub in Kentish Town, and wrote their first review in this very column. What first impressed me was their audacity, playing shameless headbanger riffs and pulling over-the-top stadium rock moves, even though they were playing to a double-figure audience. Tonight, they've come full circle, hilariously firing off arena-scale confetti cannons in the low-ceilinged Waterfront.

The Darkness story is a classic tale of the rise, fall and – we shall see – rise again of a great British rock band, with all the narrative elements of a Hollywood drama: dizzying ascent to fame, undreamt-of success, drug addiction and rehab, fraternal rifts, splinter groups and the emotional reconciliation.

It was at a gig by one of those splinter groups, Hot Leg, in Brighton in 2009, that Justin cajoled a reluctant Dan Hawkins to join him on stage for "I Believe in a Thing Called Love", prompting rumours of a reunion. We always knew they'd patch it up. Brothers always do. When they high-five each other during a solo tonight, it's like they'd never been apart.

With his waxed musketeer moustache and goatee, and twice as many tattoos, Justin is in some ways a new man, in other ways not. His costume change into a leather catsuit proves there's no danger of a demure, downbeat Darkness this time around.

Cult hero and handclap co-ordinator Poullain, with his Hair Bear Bunch afro, is the secret star of the show, a man whose piratical essence goes beyond mere bandannas: at the London gig, I'll run into a friend of his, a kind of Latin-American Howard Marks, whose tales of drug-running in Bolivia verify that the more lurid passages in Poullain's autobiography Dancing in the Darkness are no fiction.

And Dan, despite walking on in a silk shirt, changes into his trademark Thin Lizzy T-shirt halfway through, easing fears of some sort of ravens-leaving-the-Tower calamity if he got through a whole gig without it.

Hearing immortal pop-rock classics such as "Growing on Me", it's clear that my initial diagnosis a decade ago – "AC/DC fronted by a young Freddie Mercury" – was only two-thirds of the story. The Darkness had songwriting skills straight out of the Andersson/Ulvaeus handbook. For every daft, dog-based horror yarn like "Black Shuck", there's something as affecting as "Friday Night" or "Love Is Only a Feeling". And the new material on show, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us" (actually an old but unrecorded song), "Concrete" and "Cannonball", with their chunky riffs and hysterical falsetto vocals, are hewn from the same rock as their prime works.

At this almost home-town gig there's much local chat from Lowestoft-bred Hawkins, taunting Ipswich Town and playing the finale "Love on the Rocks with No Ice" in a retro Norwich City trackie. There's also a spontaneous crowd singalong of "Christmastime (Don't Let the Bells End)" because the band won't play it, and Justinian thumbs-up salutes throughout.

The Darkness were always the anti-Radiohead, putting a grin on Brit-rock's face when it had become desperately miserable, and their re-emergence into ropey old 2011 couldn't be more timely. After a five-year hiatus, there's a well of latent affection out there, and for all their haters, an unmistakable feeling that we need The Darkness in our lives. After tonight, I believe they can do it.

Arctic Monkeys' comeback kicks off with two nights at a big arrowhead-shaped marquee erected in the back yard of the temporary home of Rotherham United, whose ground, Millmoor, has been strangled by Japanese knotweed. Were I half as clever as Alex Turner thinks he is, I could twist all that into a metaphor because the Sheffield band are engaged in a classic art-versus-commerce tussle.

It's hard not to sympathise. On Arctic Monkeys' fourth and least horrible album Suck It and See (appalling title), Turner has abandoned his stereotypical surly Northerner act. The fake tales of South Yorkshire are outnumbered by lyrics that can reach beyond the student disco, and scritchy-scratchy schmindie is replaced by dignified Sixties melodies. Turner's time in the Walker Brothers-inspired Last Shadow Puppets hasn't gone to waste.

As they try to sell beauty to a bestial audience, Arctic Monkeys' sales have declined. But a biker-jacketed Turner knows where his bread is buttered. "Let's start from the beginning," he says, and "View from the Afternoon" – album one, track one – sends the Topman lads into a frenzy. And it can't be denied: the Monkeys, less flimsy in the flesh, rock ferociously through a run of their early material. But after the restrained, Smithsy "Cornerstone", Turner almost apologises for the low-key mood, and similarly gentle Suck It and See opener "She's Thunderstorms", their best song yet, goes over worst. Conversely, he barely needs to sing a word of "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" rattles the guy-ropes.

An easy home win, and Turner probably feels dirty in the dressing room afterwards, but they all count.

Next Week:

Simon sees Pulp at Isle of Wight, and catches party-rockers LMFAO

Rock Choice

The inaugural Feis, the Irish-based one-day festival and successor to the Fleadh, takes place in Finsbury Park, London (Sat) with headliner Bob Dylan. Meanwhile, Morrissey warms up for his Hop Farm headline slot with a Scottish tour beginning at Perth City Hall (Wed); Inverness Ironworks (Fri) and Dunoon Queen's Hall (Sat).

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
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.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all