The Darkness, Fun Machine @ ANU Bar, Canberra (10/05/12)

Is rock and roll dead?

If you were in the large crowd at the ANU Bar on Thursday night, you would have to conclude that it’s alive and well.

This night marked the first performance of The Darkness in Canberra and it was well overdue.

After exploding onto the world scene in 2003 with their debut Permission To Land and a follow-up album in 2005, One Way Ticket to Hell..and Back, the band descended into a haze of rehab, break-ups, new line-ups and side projects. With thanks to the rock and roll gods, the original line-up has reformed and with a new album in the works, presented themselves to a feverish Canberra crowd.

The ANU Bar gave us the ‘big audience’ layout of the stage, offering a lot of room for the hundreds of punters that showed up. A good mix of old, young, women and men were present, but one thing was certain. Black was the ‘shade’ of choice on the night.

The support act of the night were local artists, Fun Machine. Some might say that it was a quizzical choice to have the well-known quirkiness of ‘The Machine’ support an outwardly rock addled headliner, but the more we heard from the Canberra darlings, the more it felt just right. Never ones to be self-conscious, the band donned themselves in an intriguing array of clothing, including black sequined covered shirts, yellow skirts and other outlandish accessories. The music was energetic and varied, but always entertaining. From rocky influenced sing-along numbers to a duo of backup string performers, the band are never boring and converted a somewhat hesitant crowd into a new batch of fans. Fun Machine proved that they are welcome at any gig, with a fitting and fun warm-up to the main act.

With the overture of Thin Lizzy’s Boys Are Back In Town ringing through our ears, the ‘boys’ of The Darkness descended to the stage to rapturous applause. They launched straight into Black Shuck and from the first falsetto heights of singer/guitarist Justin Hawkins, we knew that the band were on form and keen to give us a show.

As Hawkins asked for the crowd to give him a “D” and an “arkness”, the band ploughed through songs off their two released albums, as well as a taste of some new tracks to be released later this year.

There were multiple highlights, including an acoustic solo rendition of Holding my Own, in which Hawkins chatted with animated crowd members, hair raising falsetto in Get Your Hands Off My Woman and a crowd sing-along to Friday Night. The finale of the main set was the hit, I Believe in a Thing Called Love, which went off with a huge pop from the crowd.

The Darkness rolled out all of the rock clichés – bare chests, behind the head guitar solos, aerial splits and extended finishes to songs. It was everything you hoped it would be. The Darkness are not The Darkness unless they give these delights to the crowd and Canberra lapped it up hungrily.

With fist pumping glee, the four-piece rounded out the night with a two song encore, finishing with Love On the Rocks as Justin hitched a ride on a security guard and played the final solo on his shoulders (and behind his head of course).

In their own words, “The Darkness are back, motherfuckers”.

About time.