The Darkness – Powerstation: October 22, 2022

The Darkness lit up The Powerstation last night and The 13th Floor’s Andra Jenkin basked in the glow. Here is her report along with photos from Leonie Moreland.

I’ve come to the Powerstation tonight to envelope myself in The Darkness on the last leg of their Motorheart Tour. Still, before the main event it’s always exciting to see what homegrown talent is on the rise and Mini Simmons didn’t disappoint.

Mini Simmons

I’m told that the Auckland outfit is a blues rock band, which perhaps describes a portion of what they do, but hardly gives them credit for the elements of honky tonk keys, hints of country twang in the vocals, overdriven bass and funky guitar that somehow combines to be proper long-haired rock and roll. Should one find them in the bayou that produced CCR, one would not be entirely surprised. Their opening number, a chill, funky song with a strong beat, earns them an appreciative howl from the audience.

Zak Hawkins contrives to be a cool hybrid of Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger, owing both a lot in inspiration and influence. He’s a talented frontman and certainly has the chops for the job. Brother Jesse Hawkins keeps the energy high, he has a dynamic charisma that stands out on stage.  The solid rock lead and rhythm guitars alternate between laid back and driving rhythm backed by Yoni Yahel’s drums. I can tell you Brad Craig is one of the guitarists, but the other remains a mystery despite my internet spying.

Emily Mackie is almost hidden behind the keyboard, but her presence is evident in the music, creating a fuller sound that does evoke blues and good grooves.

Zak admits “We’ve been kinda quiet up until now.” But their third song, Kids of Broadway, has heavy beats that hit through the heart, distorted guitars and strong bass that ratchets the sound up a gear.

Their single, You Got Away with Murder, is a great opening line and a crowd pleaser, as was Zak breaking out a harmonica in a Doors inspired song which used the rhythm section to sound like a train going down the tracks. There were clear echoes of the blues here, with the band adding instruments to the mix until the layering built to a crescendo well worth the build-up.

The Darkness

Now the crowd started their inevitable surge towards the stage, anticipating the main act. Some waiting for years to get there, due to the border close that prevented the band from playing in 2020. Teasing sounds of drums could be heard behind the scenes while the stage remained empty, a grungy guitar hung in the air, along with a drift of weed smoke.

The jostling crowd amassed front and centre as light and smoke set the scene for an epic rock opera starting with high pitched frequencies reminiscent of church organ music, or full swelling bagpipes, gaining until the ears were barely tolerating the sound as it devolved into a shrieking buzz. Add to that the screaming of the crowd as The Darkness descended and the noise reached an intensity I’ve not seen matched in concert ever before. From the off you know your ears will be ringing by the end, and though the swan song of dying frequencies will keep you up through the night, you just don’t care because with sounds like these emanating from tortured guitars and jaw droppingly complex vocals, you have to listen with all of your ears.

But it’s not just a feast for the ears, the eyes get their fill too. The Darkness loves costumes. Justin, the sexy vagabond poet struts in draped in an open cropped striped jacket with science fiction style shoulder pads and skin tight trousers. His cheeky smile invites you to take it all in. Frankie Poullain, on bass, like a hallucination from the 70s and 80s is wearing a black sequined jacket, black leather pants and a fro held back with a sports visor. Drummer, Rufus Tiger Taylor, is rock royalty, his father is the drummer for Queen, which is why his middle name, Tiger, was bestowed upon him by Freddie Mercury. He starts off in a simple black band T, but by the encore is nearly naked so overheated he must have become keeping up the intense hammering rhythm. There was lots of leather and long hair swinging from Justin’s brother Dan Hawkins, on guitar (bringing the total number of Hawkins and brothers on stage tonight to four) to complete the rock ensemble. Together, The Darkness creates a theatricality that is magic, entirely enveloping the crowd in the experience.

Speaking of experience, Justin Hawkins cannot be overpraised for his skills in captivating an audience. We were riveted on every level. The easy charm shone through in his crowd work, his technical expertise utilised slide, finger picking and not so cheap tricks – playing the guitar on his hip and like keyboard. All the while he showcases those incredible vocal cords that are screaming in falsetto at only a pitch that dogs can hear one moment then dropping down to spoken word, sounding like the deep mellifluous tones of a professional narrator, the next.

Though the Powerstation was sold out and we were standing shoulder to shoulder, Justin had the almost preternatural skill of making you feel as if he were singing to you personally. Beating his chest, getting up close, touching the front row, Hawkins held nothing back. He has the gift of connecting completely in a way that made the packed-out show feel intimate and you feel special.

I can describe the sounds, the sights the many guitar changes, the bangers we all sang along to and the new stuff which was just as good if not better for having heard it anew, but none of it gets across what it was like being there in the front row. With all the words in the world I could never capture the experience. It was like being inside a powerful ocean wave, churning you up, and turning you over until you don’t know which way is up and you can hardly breathe but you just want to hold on for one more revolution because you’ve never felt more alive.

Andra Jenkin

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Leonie Moreland

The Darkness:

Mini Simmons:

The Darkness Setlist

  1. Motorheart
  2. Black Shuck
  3. Growing On Me
  4. Welcome Tae Glasgae
  5. One Way Ticket
  6. It’s Love, Jim
  7. Givin’ Up
  8. Heart Explodes
  9. Barbarian
  10. Love Is Only A Feeling
  11. Friday Night
  12. Japanese Prisoner Of Love
  13. Solid Gold
  14. Get Your Hands Off My Woman
  15. I Believe In A Thing Called Love
  16. Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)
  17. Love On The Rocks With No Ice