THE DARKNESS and THE WILDHEARTS
Theater of Living Arts
Philadelphia, PA (April 2, 2004)
Reviewed by Johnny Rodgers

First of all, the fact that I am even able to write this review is very cool due to the fact that I was not expecting to see this show at all. The day this show went on sale, tickets were gone in twenty minutes. I tried desperately to hook up a review through the normal avenues but to no avail. Then time just plain ran out. However, Lady Luck took a shining on me at the last possible minute.

One of my best friends Jim Rice, some of you may know him as Playboy Pa. a former Sludgaholic of the month on our fellow rock sight Metal Sludge, gave me a ring to inform me that he had an extra pass to the local radio station Y-100's Sonic session featuring The Darkness.

This is a very cool thing. It's just a select group of people by invitation only at a small studio where the band lays down a few tunes recorded live for the radio. People were saying that tickets for this event were on e-bay for as much as fifteen hundred dollars. This was my first taste of what was to come ahead for the full blown live show, if I could just get hooked up to see the evening show.

Well to make a really long story really short, remember that Lady Luck shining on me in the beginning of the story? Well let’s just say that she gave me the full light show for the rest of this day. Through some very cool people, and friends, I was able to secure a couple tickets for the evening show.

All right, so now let’s get to some serious rockin!! The buzz in the TLA for The Wildhearts was serious. My friends are very heavily into these guys but to be honest, I personally didn't know a whole lot about them I gotta tell ya it doesn't take long for them to rock you right into their world. Out in support of their first major release in the U.S. in over ten years, "The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed" the band delivered mega guitar driven tunes taken from their past up to the present, with such rockers as “Vanilla Radio”, “Greetings From Shitsville”, “I Wanna Go Where The People Go” and, my personal favorite track of the set, “Beautiful Thing You”.

In my opinion these guys are like a cool mix of Cheap Trick, Motorhead, and Billy Idol, shaken and stirred into a fine rockin highball. Lead singer, guitarist Ginger, lead guitar, C.J., bassist (Random) John Poole, and hard hitting drummer, Stidi fiercely rocked the crowd for a killer hour or so definitely stirring my interests to check these guys out much further, so that on my next review I am a little more schooled on the history of this killer band.



Finally after a brief break in the action, the much anticipation, Philadelphia debuted of The Darkness. O.K. KIDDIES TAKE YOUR PLACES, ROCK SCHOOL IS IN FULL SESSION!!!!!!! My God, this is a breath of fresh air. This band is without a doubt pioneering the resurgence of the rock genre the way I learned it as a young rebel. They are taking the greatest elements of some of the best bands in rock and roll and bringing them back to the mainstream of the music of today.

This, my friends, would be suicide to some acts but somehow The Darkness pull it off brilliantly with dignity and great respect. If CD sales and concert attendance are any indication of the rock and roll community's feelings then I would have to say that I am not alone in viewing this band as a serious heavy hitter to return us all to the glorious days of “anthem arena rock” with a full out stage production. One of the other things that make this band so cool is the fact that when you look around the venue you can’t help but notice the age variation of the crowd from very young teens to the die hard middle aged rockers all entranced by something that the young ones may not remember at all, but have been told about by their older brothers and sisters, or parents.

But the older ones.... aaahhhh yes, take me back to the days of heavy guitar, thunderous bass, and vocals, that's right, real vocals with melody, harmony, and actually resembling something called music. No my friends there is no angst driven, angry shouting by some guy who looks as if he just crawled out of the gutter screaming so hard the veins on his temples are about to burst while he yells at us about how bad his life sucks, and all of us should feel that way too!!!!!!! O.K. O.K. calm down Johnny, deep breath, deep breath.... O.K. all kidding aside, think of Queen, Thin Lizzy, The Sweet, David Bowie, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper. You see where I'm coming from right?

Well this is the genre that The Darkness will be categorized. Actually very heavily on the first two above. The guitar work of brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins is an awesome display of dexterity and style with killer guitar tones and great harmony work ala classic Thin Lizzy. I was really impressed with the great sound these guys get together. And as I touched on, ahem.....lightly before, not only does Justin play a lethal guitar, but yes, the man does sing, and he does it like a pro.

I would love to interview these guys to find out what kind of training he had, because he definitely seems to have great control. And any comparisons made to Mr. Mercury are well deserved, because there are times when if you closed your eyes you would think it was the Tenament Funster himself up there. This is good company to be in as far as vocalist go, "it don't get much better than that." The band is rounded out with bassist Frankie Poullain, and drummer Ed Graham, both holding down a solid rock-hard foundation for the guitar and vocal barrage to intertwine nicely with the punchy rock-laden rhythms.

The band played virtually every song from their mega debut disc, "Permission To Land." Justin kept all in attendance entertained to the max, with a lot of onstage humor, a great rap with the crowd, and no less than three costume changes with matching guitars. This guy is definitely one to be reckoned with, he has all the ingredients for greatness as a guitarist, vocalist and frontman.

To rap this review up I just wanted to bring up the fact that a lot of people who have only heard very little of the band, don't really know what to make of them. They might think they are like a Spinal Tap, or a spoof on heavy metal, with the operatic vocals and the X rated lyrics sometimes bringing a tongue in cheek chuckle into the mix.

All I can say is, if you haven't really gave them a serious listen, because you think it's a joke... it's a shame. You will find out that the joke is on you because this band is very much THE.....REAL DEAL. ROCK AND ROLL THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE....... GRANDIOSE, HUGE, OVER THE TOP. Now if that's a joke, then I guess The Darkness are laughing right with these ill knowledged folk.......all the way to the bank.



Photos courtesy of Johnny Rodgers©2004

Real quick I would like to give a special thumbs up and big thanks to my friends Jim Rice, Jimmy Tarquinio of Warner/Electra/Atlantic and also to Darren Natale, Atlantic Records, and Willy, Road Mgr. Wildhearts and Danny and Hot Steve, Stage Crew and The Wildhearts.

Websites:
The Darkness, The Wildhearts