Cardiff Students Union isn’t the most inviting venue but on Saturday night, with The Darkness returning in the headline slot, it was transformed with lights and music that made you forget that you weren’t in a stadium. Massive Wagons opened the evening with a half-hour set, and their unique blend of punky metal went down well. Some fans made game efforts to dance; shame there wasn’t a moshpit, but with people packed in like sardines there just wasn’t the space.
The Darkness opened with Welcome To Glasgae, from their new album Motorheart, and my first thought was “why?” The band aren’t Scottish, and we’re in Wales – but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Neither did they mind when, two songs in, frontman Justin Hawkins took off his top and played bare-chested. A few songs later he changed into a pink fringed catsuit and, in the spirit of 70s rock, played the audience against each other in a mock singing competition. Hawkins is an amiable frontman, and an agile one – at one point he did a handstand on the drum platform – but the real star of the show was the music.
The Darkness are a lot heavier live than on record. They play good ol’ foot-stomping rock and rolled out hits such as One Way Ticket, Get Your Hands Off My Woman and Sticky Situations. The famous Hawkins ‘screech’ took a back seat, reserved mainly for I Believe In A Thing Called Love, which ended their set. Naturally, everyone expects an encore but the band were off stage so long it looked like they weren’t going to reappear – eventually doing so donned in Christmas costumes the better to send us home with Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) ringing in our ears. Suffice to say the drumming Christmas tree was a highlight of the night.
When Hawkins said, “Cardiff, you’re the best crowd we’ve had so far on this tour!” I believed him. Never have I seen such a happy audience: from my bird’s eye view on the balcony, I watched them cheer and stomp and sing every word to every song. It was clear that The Darkness are a well-loved band and if the queue for merchandise hadn’t been so long, I’d have bought a T-shirt.
Great Hall, Cardiff University Students Union, Sat 27 Nov
words LYNDA NASH photos TIM ALBAN
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