The Darkness, St David’s Hall, Cardiff
A surreal night at the opera? Well, the setting of Cardiff’s St David’s Hall was certainly more suited to the dinner suit but that didn't faze the boys from Lowestoft who took the cavernous venue in their stride to deliver a night of high quality.
First up was the Blackfoot Gypsies (6) all the way from Nashville. The four piece, who bizarrely contained Ollie Dog on harmonica and nothing else, would have benefited from an additional rhythm guitarist or keyboard playing to chunk out their sound. Their punkish attitude combined with a Southern Blues and Country style was certainly inoffensive and Matthew Paige’s effeminate vocals and between song banter carried charm. Ultimately, they didn’t do a huge amount in their 30 minutes on stage. The large spaces across the auditorium suggested that many felt the same way, opting for a pre-gig pint rather than watch this oddball outfit.
I’d never seen The Darkness (8) live before and I don’t know why as they certainly have sufficient to float my boat. Their last two albums have been hugely enjoyable and there is a rejuvenated feel about the band who at one point were a car crash. In Justin Hawkins the band possess one of the rock world’s most charismatic front men, with his high vocal range and tremendous spontaneous wit very enjoyable. Whether it was jesting with the eager front rows about their dancing, confirming the venue rules on where fans could stand with one of the security staff, accurately calling the East balcony’s attempt at singing “motherfucker” shit or climbing the PA stack to perform a song from the front row of the balcony, there was always something to watch and smile at.
Sat in the back row of the upper tier, the band were a little distant but remember that this venue was the home of metal through the 1980s in South Wales. With a decent sound allowing the histrionics of the band to shine through, Hawkins and brother Dan, backed by flamboyantly dressed bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ruffus Taylor (yes, son of the Queen drummer Roger), led the audience through a solid set which comprised several newies from the impressive Pinewood Smile, including their hilarious ode to Southern Trains, a dip into Last Of Their Kind, Hot Cakes and the title track from One Way Ticket To Hell ... And Back as well as virtually all their 2003 debut Permission To Land.
Naturally the older stuff gained the best response, but it was all rather splendid. The band are fabulous musicians with Justin Hawkins showing some neat guitar work as well as the gaudiest emerald coloured catsuit. It was inevitable that the second encore would be their ghastly Christmas song, at which point Mrs H and I decided to take our leave. Nevertheless, this was a great evening and now that the cherry has been popped, it may not be too long before we are back to see the band in a more appropriate venue. A fun evening and a great way to end my gigs for 2017.