Retro rock; Love it or hate it, there’s no getting around it, especially in grim times like ours when looking back to rock n’roll’s glory days would appear to be one of the few pleasures left to normally-aspirated men and women. So it seems strangely appropriate that Sentinel Daily finds itself encamped in the faded opulence of Adelaidian art deco pile the Thebarton Theatre waiting for the classic rock-inspired mayhem of Lowestoft’s finest, The Darkness.
First though, is an unplanned encounter with Perth roughnecks The Southern River Band. Your humble interlocutor hadn’t heard particularly encouraging things about TSRB, and therefore wasn’t particularly bothered about turning up in time for their support slot. Thirty minutes after first contact, I’m rather glad I bothered to make the band’s acquaintance.
Amusingly-clad frontman Cal Kramer may look like a refugee from a second division German power metal band circa 1983, but his band actually sound like something you might have seen on an episode of Countdown a few years earlier than that; Unashamedly blue collar heavy rock is the order of the day here, with the band at times sounding like an appealing mix of The Ted Mulry Gang and The Angels; motoring seventies rock with an eighties twist may have been done before, but rarely by someone as earthily humorous as Kramer, whose inter-song patter is a welcome blast of no-nonsense self-deprecatory amusement; when the band go for broke on the closing track (sadly unintroduced so I didn’t catch the name) they prove however that they have many more strings to their bow than mere nostalgic tomfoolery. This is a band, as Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins mentioned later, that is going places. Make sure you get in early and catch their set on the rest of this tour.
The Darkness, of course, need no introduction and perform as such; However, there’s a freshness and vigour to their performance tonight that suggests that, whatever your thoughts on last album Motorheart – and mine weren’t particularly positive – the band in 2022 is in the best place it’s been in a long, long time. If you’re a fan you’ll know that the heart of the set still beats around old classics like Black Shuck, Get Your Hands Off My Woman, Love Is Only A Feeling, One Way Ticket et al, but newer tracks like Heart Explodes, Barbarian and particularly the banging Solid Gold all fit in seamlessly to provide a seventy five minute set that’s high on impact (as well as amusement) and even higher on entertainment value. Dan Hawkins as ever provides the more solid rhythmic foil to his brother’s more flamboyant six string approach, but it’s drummer Rufus Taylor who once again proves that, as Paul Stanley so memorably posited, it’s not what’s in your jeans that matters – it what’s in your genes – with a bravura percussive performance that would have surely made father Roger proud had he been in attendance tonight.
Great stuff, then, topped off come encore time with a rousing performance of the band’s Christmas single Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) performed with Kramer joining the band onstage in front of a bemused-looking bassist Frankie Poullain armed only with a set of sleighbells in hand. Festive fun indeed…
The Darkness continue wending their way through the Antipodes on the following dates:
Sunday, Oct 16: Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Tuesday, Oct 18: Kambri, Canberra
Wednesday Oct 19: Tivoli, Brisbane
Friday, Oct 21: Hunter Lounge, Wellington
Saturday, Oct 22: Powerstation, Auckland
Photo by Kathryn Adams.