The live album used to be the mainstay of any rock band. That seems to have become less essential these days, despite the importance of playing live for most bands’ incomes. Whether you consider them relevant or not, there is still a market for a good recording of a decent live band, so forget your shaky iPhone footage filmed behind the tallest person in the room with distorted sound, slip on an album and be transported back to the gig.
The Darkness was once the darlings of the UK rock world. Bursting onto the scene with their debut album Permission to Land in 2003, they went on to win three Brit Awards and filled arenas up and down the country, their live show getting bigger and more ludicrous as it went along. By not taking themselves too seriously, and epitomising everything clichéd in rock, they were embraced by the mainstream and slowly pillared by the rockers. Long before Steel Panther, The Darkness brought humour into rock. Few actually saw past the absurd stage props (singer Justin Hawkins’ catsuits were just the beginning, he’d eventually end up flying over the heads of arena crowds on a tiger and later a large pair of plastic breasts. No, really, we saw it with our own eyes.
Live is where The Darkness excelled, and although they haven’t reached the dizzy heights of the initial success in recent years, they still pack out the halls and put on a hell of a show. This album was recorded just before Christmas 2017 at (as the title suggests) the legendary Hammersmith Odeon Apollo, where so many of the most famous live albums were born (Motörhead, Whitesnake, and, most recently, Kate Bush come to mind). Containing the full set, it’s a perfect representation of the band at their musical best.
It’s a set that encompasses all their output, with five from the most recent studio album Pinewood Smile and almost all of Permission to Land and it’s nice to remember that behind the bombast and flamboyant energy of the band, there are actually some really quality tunes. The only thing missing is being able to see the on-stage antics, and perhaps The Darkness would be better served by a live video, but with the prevalence of cameras at gigs and the abundance of YouTube footage to view, how financially feasible that would be is uncertain.
Played with more oomph than in the studio, songs such as Giving Up, Get Your Hands off My Woman burst from the speakers. Hawkins’ famed falsetto rings out perfectly throughout, and once more we’re set to thinking ‘what if he’d have joined Queen’… May and co.’s loss is our gain as The Darkness provide perfect sonic entertainment, which at the end of the day, music is meant to be. Forget your po-faced pseudo-intellectual twiddling, glam up, have some fun and rock out.
Who said the live album was dead?
The Darkness – Live in Hammersmith is released on CD, LP and Download on June 15th on Cooking Vinyl.