Live review: The Darkness, RavenEye at Belasco Theater, April 12.


It would be more accurate but less fun if they were called the Lightness. Four Brits with great riffs and a brillo glam 'tude, the Darkness banged through a hiwatt set in an appropriately decadent downtown '20s Spanish/Gothic-revival theater. Even if you don't like our music, singer Justin Hawkins had advertised, come for the architecture.

We like the music, though -- whoever We are. A scan of the room revealed a puzzling balance of old, young, male, female, white, Latin, Asian, even a few black, with dress codes ranging from flowered Day-Glo pantsuits to street rags. Where'd We come from? Maybe the Darkness have been building a fan base for 11.7 years since their debut, "Permission To Land," but they vacated 5 of those to get over drugs and themselves, and their records have registered as either awesome (1 & 3) or spotty (2 & 4). Their tour with Lady Gaga a few years back might account for some of the lowercase diversity.

With the crowd plainly begging for "Permission," the four could only grant it: Justin applied his passionate falsetto (how does he keep it up?) to the unforgettable melodies of "I Believe in a Thing Called Love," "Black Shuck," "Get Your Hands off of My Woman" and "Friday Night." The jaunty "Dinner Lady Arms" stood out from the overlabored "One Way Ticket to Hell . . . and Back" album. From "Hot Cakes," the brag-plodding "Every Inch of You" nicely broke the pattern of uptempo rockers. And we surely received some nuggets from the strange medieval history pageant "Last of Our Kind," but the bad sound mix in this echoing cathedral made the less familiar tunes hard to grasp.

Some were surprised to behold hardworking scarecrow Justin (with shorter coif and no ringmaster 'stache) twiddling most of the craftily structured lead-guitar breaks, while brother Dan Hawkins chopped away at the ball-crushing riffs, and poodle-haired Frankie Poullain twirled his bass and belted backup vox. Rufus Tyler Taylor (son o' Queen drummer Roger) claimed the band's rotating skins throne with just the right measure of simple tonnage and cowbell.

In the course of commanding the sold-out throngs with theatrical hand flourishes, Justin cycled through several changes of topwear and delivered a tribute to AC/DC by riding through the audience on somebody's shoulders wearing an Egyptian headdress -- treasure from the Gaga trash can?

RavenEye -- two hairies and a baldy -- opened the retro proceedings with flashbacks on elemental circa-1970 blues-rockers such as Cactus, Canned Heat and Norman Greenbaum. Singer-guitarist Oli Brown's many whoah-oh-ohs didn't make us crave animal tranquilizers, which constituted a failure.

Thanks to the Darkness, though, the rest of the evening sped by, which constituted a success.

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