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Review: The Darkness descends upon the House of Blues

Posted 12:09pm on Monday, May. 28, 2012

The Darkness wrapped up its American comeback tour Sunday at the House of Blues, roaring through a two-hour set full of high kicks and head scarves, cowbell and profanity, and some genuinely great glam-rock songs that have aged spectacularly well.

Having released just two albums (2003's Permission to Land and 2005's underwhelming One Way Ticket to Hell ... and Back) before breaking up in 2006, thanks to frontman Justin Hawkins's drug and alcohol problems, the Darkness has reformed and rebounded, itching to prove themselves again.

There's scarcely any rust on the players -- the now-sober Hawkins, who handles guitar as well as vocals, along with his brother, guitarist Dan Hawkins, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham -- and despite the culture's shift over the past decade, songs like set opener Black Shuck, Love is Only a Feeling and the band's signature hit, I Believe in a Thing Called Love remains electrifying, particularly when an entire room is shouting along at the top of its lungs.

The hall was, surprisingly (or not), fairly full for a Sunday night, with most in the crowd shouting back every word. The Darkness has a fresh studio album, Hot Cakes, due in August and showcased just one new track Sunday (Nothing's Gonna Stop Us), leaving the bulk of their performance for the familiar hits.

And as such, the night felt like a runaway locomotive, fueled by Hawkins' incredible voice and careening from one high point to the next. Initially clad in a completely unironic American flag jumpsuit, the wiry Hawkins, sporting an unruly goatee, hasn't lost his killer falsetto. It rose and plunged as needed, goosing the songs with feeling and energy; the band's frantic cover of Radiohead's Street Spirit (Fade Out) was basically an excuse for him to cut loose and wail to the heavens. (In true rock 'n' roll fashion, he also wasn't above corrupting youth: Hawkins singled out an eight-year-old in the crowd, encouraging himself to finish the profane chorus to Get Your Hands Off My Woman. The child gleefully obliged, and the crowd ate it up.)

From here, the Darkness heads to Europe, for a string of dates opening for Lady Gaga. Beyond that, the new album, and hopefully, a sustained career delivering the kind of hip-shaking, fist-pumping rock 'n' roll America (and the world) dearly needs more of.

Dallas quintet the Virgin Wolves kicked things off with a surprisingly explosive 40-minute set, full of inchoate rage, roaring guitars and impressive stage presence, considering the young group has just a couple EPs to its credit. The flip side of the Darkness's knowing good times, the Wolves reminded you rock can have its moments of engaging seriousness too.

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