I saw The Darkness.
Yes, the House of Blues Sunset Strip presents a drastically different (and less claustrophobic) night out than Slim's in San Francisco does, but man, did the UK glam-rock lads more than make up for their time away.
Unlike LA, which apparently had a few chances to see the Darkness back in the early 2000s when they exploded onto the scene with 2003's Permission to Land, the Bay only had one shot (that I was privy to), and I sweated in the tiny hotbox of Slim's while Justin Hawkins, Dan Hawkins, Ed Graham and Frankie Poullain did their thing. It was magnificent.
And then, it was over, after they broke up after 2005's One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back didn't continue the success achieved by their breakthrough debut.
One of the first shows I saw after moving to LA in 2008 was catch Justin's new band, Hot Leg, at the Viper Room, but it just made me miss the Darkness more.
Last night, the wounds caused by living in a world devoid of Darkness were healed, and the band ripped through a nearly two-hour set of the entire Permission to Land record, old gems, new tunes, and all the guitar solos one can possibly handle in one sitting.
The openers, Crown Jewel Defense, were energetic, and I caught a free t-shirt (that I can't wear), but they were the quintessential "Sunset Strip opening band" - loud, colorful, obnoxious, and riff-heavy. The singer at times sounded like the guy from Ugly Kid Joe, but they didn't have any songs as grabbing as Everything About You, sadly.
Next up were Foxy Shazam, a band I've heard a lot about but hadn't had the chance to see. To say "they delivered" wouldn't quite do it justice; they're balls-to-the-wall insane live.
Lead singer Eric Nally flopped around, told long, meandering stories and jokes that didn't have an ending or punch line, and, um, ate cigarettes. Apparently that's part of his shtick, much to my girlfriend's horror (and mine, admittedly - that's just gross, and it can't be healthy).
Musically, though, they were great - keyboardist Schuyler White (not to be confused with her) looks like a lost Zappa and repeatedly pounded his keyboard like it owed him money. And the facial expressions! Dude was possessed.
They tore through songs from the recently-released Church of Rock and Roll, like I Like It, Holy Touch, and The Temple, and by the time they were done I had joined the congregation.
After a short break, it was finally time for the Darkness.
Slamming through Black Shuck, they kicked off their 21-song set with an enthusiasm and energy that set the place alight. Justin Hawkins, clad in a cutoff American flag jacket and matching pants, was at his best, his customary screech hitting all the right notes throughout the whole set. That's honestly very impressive, considering how hard it must be to maintain pipes like that.
Behind him, the other Hawkins, Graham and Poullain were fitting accomplices - they're all stellar musicians, with the Hawkinses regularly trading riffs and Poullain scowling like an old movie villain.
Blended in with songs from their debut were some new jams, like Concrete (one of my favorites of the new material), She's Just a Girl, Eddie, and Out of this World. Hazel Eyes was also a nice treat, as for some reason I wasn't expecting that to show up on the set list. (Enjoy the video of that song below, courtesy of our pals at Concert Confessions).
They even paid homage to Radiohead, covering Street Spirit (Fade Out), transforming the emotionally gripping original song into a blast of 1980s power metal cheese, which was amazing (and probably abhorrent to the most serious-faced Radiohead fans in the building). Behold:
They held I Believe in a Thing Called Love until the very end, before the 2-song encore of Bareback and the show-closing Love on the Rocks with No Ice, which featured Justin riding around on a security guard's shoulders while playing a guitar lead (just as he did nine years ago in SF).
In all, it was a magnificent night of good-natured rock 'n' roll fun.
The Darkness aren't here to revolutionize the world, they aren't here to be serious and make statements. They're here to represent a lost era of rock music - when bands like Thin Lizzy reigned supreme.
You could tell that they loved being back, too - Justin cracked jokes, smiled, and the whole atmosphere was one of enthusiasm and lightheartedness.
We needed them, and they came back.
Thanks guys, and please, come back soon.
Here are some obnoxiously blurry photos from the show, on my old trashy digital camera that is in dire need of being replaced.