Review by Jason Guest; photos by Sam Knight
Earlier this year, The Darkness played the much bigger Civic Hall next door (Ed: reviewed here), so when this venue was announced as the setting for the tenth anniversary of Permission To Land, it came as quite the surprise. That gig was rammed, no doubt in response to the band returning after a long absence and a new album to their name. Too soon to come back? Maybe, but such a distinct drop in venue capacity – 3,000 to 1,100 – can’t be a good thing can it?
The lights go down, a cheer goes up, and Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ plays over the PA. And we are ready for The Darkness to do as they did back in March and transform a weekday into a weekend and the Wulfrun into a stadium. But no, not quite yet. There’s another song we’ve got to listen to first. Whatever song it may be is of no interest because the crowd are noticeably frustrated by this drawn out introduction.
When the band finally appears, the first half of the set is, frankly, lacklustre, flat. With unnecessarily long pauses between songs that seemed to resonate more with the band than the crowd, this felt more like a rehearsal, a warm up, than a show. Yeah, they got applause, but it was in brief bursts rather than prolonged appreciation. With the performance lacking the energy we’ve become accustomed to, it’s as if the band are going through the motions workman-like, dragging us along with them. Aside from the budgie that Justin Hawkins appeared to be smuggling in his shiny black cat suit, nothing stood out. After ‘One Way Ticket’, in the darkness and silence we wait in the hope that the band is going to pick it up in the second half.
When they appear back on stage and kick into ‘Black Shuck’, already it’s a different show, a different band even. The set’s tighter, the band’s focussed, there are no ridiculously long waits between tracks, and Hawkins is toying with the crowd – “Wolverhampton always gives me the horn!” gets the response the crowd have been waiting to give the band since they appeared. At long last, Monday is now Friday and the Wulfrun is Wembley. It’s about time too because the crowd are going to be disappointed enough in the morning when they realise it’s not Saturday. At least now the hangover will be worth it. And as it’s December, they pull out that song for the encore and, thanks to the Christmas lights on the centre-stage Christmas tree, Christmas cheer fills our hearts. Just a shame we had to wait for the band to warm up…
- Makin’ Out
- She Just a Girl, Eddie
- Is It Just Me?
- The Horn
- Every Inch of You
- Curse of the Tolland Man
- Street Spirit (Fade Out) (Radiohead cover)
- One Way Ticket
Permission to Land:
- Black Shuck
- Get Your Hands Off My Woman
- Growing on Me
- I Believe in a Thing Called Love
- Love Is Only a Feeling
- Givin’ Up
- Stuck in a Rut
- Friday Night
- Love on the Rocks with No Ice
- Holding My Own
- Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)