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The Darkness light it up in New York City return

"Raise your champion!" Justin Hawkins gave a high-energy performance at Irving Plaza. Photo by Patrick Eves
“Raise your champion!” Justin Hawkins gave a typically high-energy performance at Irving Plaza. Photo by Patrick Eves

BY TINA BENITEZ-EVES | “Raise your champion,” ordered Justin Hawkins in search of a landing spot for one of The Darkness’s guitar picks — ideally, a female audience member’s cleavage. One of several deft guitar pick tosses of the evening, it was a slippery slope into The Darkness’s Irving Plaza return in New York, Oct. 27.

It was the first reappearance in the Big Apple for the foursome — who were on hiatus from 2006 through 2011 — since 2012, following their supporting role on the European leg of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way tour.

“We’re the motherf—–g Darkness from the motherf—–g U.K.!” Hawkins declared after launching off the drums to do a midair split, following “Black Schuck” from the band’s 2003 debut, “Permission to Land.” Most of “Permission” was heard during the evening’s 18-song set, which was sprinkled with just three tracks from the band’s latest (and fourth studio release) “Last of Our Kind,” including opener “Barbarian.”

There are still those sticky glam rock “Spinal Tap”-influenced lyrics coated by Hawkins’s wailing falsetto. The Darkness are the closest thing you’ll get to a metal show circa 1987. Everything that should be intact with The Darkness is, and it seems they’re in a better place for it — particularly, Hawkins, who chose rehab over the band nearly a decade ago.

After a few meetings with brother Dan, The Darkness’s guitarist, the brothers Hawkins put the pieces in place in 2011 to reassemble the band — with all four original members, including drummer Ed Graham — returning with “Hot Cakes” a year later.

However, this time around, Rufus Taylor, the son of Queen’s Roger Taylor, is filling in on drums following the band’s parting ways with Graham last year.

At Irving Plaza, The Darkness were in great form. “Get Your Hands Off of My Woman” excited the crowd the most, while “Love Is Only a Feeling” filled the ballad slot and also served as a “thank you” and “apology” to Taylor by Hawkins, who admitted to losing his temper with him earlier in the day. Before this, the singer took a seat, pounding the piano with a Les Paul slung around his neck for a rocking “English Country Garden” from 2005’s “One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back.”

The brothers Hawkins, guitarist Dan, left, and singer Justin, packed a punch at the Gramercy show.
The brothers Hawkins, guitarist Dan, left, and singer Justin, packed a punch at the Gramercy show.

Crotch grabbing, in your face, the showy singer — now changed into tight white short shorts and a Thin Lizzy T-shirt — dove into the audience for a crowd surf three times around Irving Plaza and had one fan carry him (while he continued playing guitar) on his shoulders to the back of the venue and around during “Love on the Rocks With No Ice,” the last of three songs in the evening’s encore, which also included the band’s heavier rendition of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit.”

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