The Darkness



It was the gig they didn't want us to tell you about. But despite the media being barred, the EDP was at the UEA, Norwich, last night as shaggy-haired Lowestoft rockers the Darkness played on East Anglian soil for the first time in more than two years.

The intimate sell-out show was a dress rehearsal for their imminent arena tour - and new bassist Richie Edwards's first show.

It began in typical flamboyant Darkness style with bagpipes.

Singer Justin Hawkins, famed for his outlandish cat-suits, was wearing a more restrained outfit than usual - a fringed cape, striped skin-tight trousers and a glittery top slashed to the navel that was rather more Roger Daltry than Freddie Mercury.

The show kicked off with a song from the band's latest album - I Like What You've Done With Your Hair - and Justin was soon hitting the high notes with his famous ear-piercing falsetto and pulling scissor kicks.

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That was followed by an energetic romp through the title track of their new record One Way Ticket to Hell and Back. Then came the new single Is It Just Me? followed by an old favourite Growing on Me - with the audience readily joining in when Richie's bass cut out because of a technical glitch.

Critics don't really know what to make of The Darkness. Those who dismiss them as a novelty tribute act were forced to eat their words when their debut album, Permission to Land, went on to sell 1.5 million copies in the UK and scooped a hat-trick of Brit Awards.

Now the band, which also includes Justin's brother Dan and their Kirkley High School friend Ed Graham, have to prove themselves to the critics again to convince them they're more than a one-trick pony.

They didn't have to try that hard to win over the crowd at UEA - and they have lost none of the tongue-in-cheek wit that sets them apart from your usual angsty rockers.

At one point an amorous fan threw underwear on to the stage, which Justin then put on. The frontman later exposed what he described as the "beer gut of fury"- a consequence of two years on the road. He also introduced his mum and dad to the crowd and threatened to perform Paul Simon's cheesy 1980s hit You Can Call Me Al.

When the band launched into I Believe in a Thing Called Love, predictably the crowd erupted.

Mary Nelson, 49, from Norwich, was among the crowd. She said: "I love their music - they are fun. I got into them through my teenage sons.”