The Darkness / Do Me Bad Things - MEN Arena - 1.12.04

After the Carling Weekend where the band received a critical mauling harsher that the legendary bad Stone Roses final show, The Darkness are in the unenviable position of having to prove their worth to the fans rather a few cynical NME hacks.

Earlier in the year we'd suggested that Do Me Bad Things were a band that were not only steal the Darkness' crown, but in fact piss on them from a great height. Lead by the 3 headed beast that is Nicolai Prowse, a man who on-stage offers camp theatrics ala Ziggy Stardust and offstage looks like a 16 year old boy from Hollyoaks; Chantal Dellusional, a soul diva with a huge voice; and then there's the growling The Woods, a man not allowed on the interview couch on CD:UK in case he gropes Cat Deeleys arse. Together they create a fusion that sounds like Led Zep meets Bowie meets The Supremes and look like extras from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Kicking off with recent single "Time For Deliverance" they prove exactly why they're going to be the band of 2005. Whereas the Darkness are all about The Hawkin's, DMBT's wouldn't exist without each and every member of the 9 strong collective. When you've got a band who's drummer writes most of the songs it's easy to see that this isn't your usual band. "Stop Kissing Me", "What's Hideous?" and former single "Song Rides" are already classics and the news that the bands debut album is going to shock by dropping the rock in favour of contemporary R&B is proof that the band will never be pigeonholed. Do Me Bad Things - you can do anything you want!!!

With rumours that The Darkness had spent £1,000,000 on stage production it was clear that we were in for a night of high gloss entertainment, but in the process the band had forgotten the important details. Dropping the stage prop of 2004, the humble white curtain, the bands entrance had none of the build up of the legendary Apollo shows at the tail end of last year. Of course the pyrotechnics more than made up for as they launched into new song "Grief Hammer", but there was constantly the hollow feeling that maybe the thing that made the Darkness great was the fact that they were the underdogs trying to be the stadium rock band. Now that they've achieved the status of selling out a mammoth arena tour what else have the band to prove to themselves or indeed the fans that have paid money to see them.

The old songs still seem as fresh as ever with "Friday Night", "Giving Up", "Love Is Only A Feeling" and "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" being highlights. But where was "Best Of Me" in this tour of glory of the UK. Surely a song that trounces on most of "Permission To Land" should have been given the arena treatment.

Of the new songs it's "Dinner Lady Arms" that really standouts. It's their "Roll With It" if you like. A song, which initially doesn't stand out, but will be looked back in history as one of their finest moments. While it was always seen as acceptable to mould themselves on Queen, on the power ballad "Seemed Like A Good Idea" and "English Country Garden" they should be put down for crimes against music. The former they veer far too close to Bryan Adams territory it's untrue and the latter is Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" rearranged and rewritten.

Appearing for an encore Justin mounts a stuffed siberian tiger for the solo on "Love On The Rocks" and out camps Xmas, which leads nicely into an edited version of "Do They Know It's Christmas" which Justin admits "don't you think the original was better". We all agree and secretly admit that so was the Stock Aitken and Waterman version as well, but that's only goes to prove that too much Fran Healy and Will Young spoil the broth. Ending on "Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)" amid a flurry of explosions they've entertained enough and been given a shot of life to take them on another 6 months till the difficult second album drops.

So what next for the Darkness? Maybe they will go away and write an album that blows away the critics despite the new songs suggesting otherwise. It's more likely though they'll carry on playing the Christmas Arena Tour year in year out trading on former glories and becoming the noughties equivalent of Madness - always a guarantee for a laugh and good night out, but please god don't play any new songs or let Justin release a solo album ala Suggs!!!

Alex McCann

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