March 26th, 2022 must have been a hard day for anyone in rock n roll to get up on stage and perform. But despite all feelings of professional and personal grief at the news of the sudden passing of Foo Fighter’s drummer, Taylor Hawkins, The Darkness hauled their sticks and axes to the dais of the Varsity Theater and delivered the raucous good time they’re known for. Which must have been incredibly challenging. Minneapolis is honored.I have been struggling for almost twenty years to find the right words to adequately characterize The Darkness and their music and why they have remained number-one on my bucket list of Bands To Be Seen Live. And I still don’t think I can get the words right, but now I have to try:
Their music is not parody, it’s not camp. It’s too earnest and too good. They’re just solidly brilliant rock musicians. With clever wit and good humor. And seemingly endless verve. And a shameless love for performance.
And as I witnessed a venue filled primarily with 40-50 year old white dudes with varying lengths of hair and beards, clad in assorted brewery-logoed hoodies belt every lyric to “Growing On Me,” appreciatively rock out to “It’s Love, Jim,” and clap along and sway with “Heart Explodes” – I finally understood that I’ve never been alone in my deep appreciation for this band. (I’ve just maybe been hanging with the wrong demographics?)
Along with the band’s thunderous displays of excellence in, and mastery of, all things Rock, lead-singer Justin Hawkin’s physics-defying voice cannot escape mention. Whipping out “Get Your Hands Off of My Woman” and “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” at the end of the set like it was absolutely no big deal was a bit jaw-dropping. Displaying so much faultless falsetto, that late in the night, this far into a tour should be appreciated for the total flex that it is.
I always worry for artists who come to the Upper-Midwest: are they able to tell that the audience is having a good time? Maybe the descendants of the Scandinavian immigrants who colonized this region have set too chill a tone in regional culture. Our public displays of excitement are maybe not as effusive as in other parts of the U.S., so I often wonder: “Did the band really know just how much these Minnesotans loved their set?”
So, just in case it was hard to read from stage, the record should state: the house floor was filled with nothing but love and good cheer for both The Darkness, and their opening act, The Dead Deads. Sedate love and good cheer, but love and good cheer, none-the-less.
These are weird, sad, uncertain times. It’s so important to be able to find joy where we can – and sometimes that joy is found in the stage antics of a long-haired rock star in a golden chest-less jumpsuit, his guitar-god brother, a straight-man bassist, and their more recently acquired second-generation rock dynasty drummer. Even on a very sad day.
Hug your friends. Tell your favorite musicians you love them.