Featured image: Press
The prospect of rock ‘n’ roll heavyweights The Darkness and Black Stone Cherry together on the same stage is the stuff of dreams. Two very different artists, the groups linked by a common thread – their tenacity and energetic stage performances that light up every room. As the double headline show rolls into town, they are joined by Danko Jones who open the show at the Manchester AO Arena.
Danko Jones are a Canadian Trio whose sound like AC/DC meets Green Day without the pop punk. Making their presence known from the get-go, they’re loud and relentless and don’t stop much between songs. Songs like ‘Saturday’ and ‘I Gotta Rock’ get the party going while each member is given their moment to shine like the exquisite cowbell in ‘I’m in a Band’ or the bass grooves of ‘Lovercall’.
While the arena is still filling up to their sounds, the crowd warm up to the act and they work very hard to command attention. Applause is treated with comical wit from the frontman and the band do a more than adequate job of starting the show.
The Darkness headlining arenas just seems right. They’re a band who make every room feel like the most explosive and stadium spectacle you have seen. Part of that is the dizzying lightshow and pyro, part of that is the magnificent vocalist Justin Hawkins, part of it is the extensive back catalogue of hit after festival singalong-sieging hit that makes up their back catalogue.
Much of the setlist is made up from Permission to Land, arguably one of the last great rock albums to dent the mainstream. But that’s not to say they’ve rested on their laurels as later songs like ‘Japanese Prisoner Of Love’ and ‘Heart Explodes’ get the same ear-bursting reception that ‘Black Shuck’ and ‘Givin’ Up’ do.
Justin Hawkins is the sort of vocalist whose determined to leave an impression on you no matter what, whether it’s the vocal call and repeats, the keytar in ‘Solid Gold’ or handstand gymnastics in ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’, there is always something to leave you talking or remember them by. The rest of the band match up to it with every riff, solo and turn and there is certainly more eyes on Rufus Taylor now after his performance with the Foo Fighters last year.
‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ sends the room into ecstasy, it’s a song that just oozes joy and the crowds reaction is infectious. By the time ‘Love on the Rocks With No Ice’ rolls around with Justin Hawkins making his way through the crowd guitar soloing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s as good as the night gets.
Black Stone Cherry believe in a different kind of approach, one front-loaded with kinetic energy. Straight off the bat, the band explode as ‘Me and Mary Jane’, ‘Burnin’ and ‘Again’ reverbate round the area. This is a tight band that love playing live and it’s reciprocated: Drummer John Fred Young is wildly powerful and entertaining to watch, Ben Wells and Steve Jewell Jr. run marathons round the stage with their respective instruments while Chris Robertson is that soulful eye in the storm.
Stories are shared by the band of why Manchester means so much to them and I believe this is a key ingredient of why they are so beloved. They encourage good times heavily, but they also act with honesty and somehow manage to make thousands of people in their room like their best friends. The emotion and the hearts on the sleeve is a winning formula alongside the rest.
There’s a little something for everyone from every album and showcases a little of their talents in every genre. ‘Out Of Pocket’ and ‘Blind Man’ show their heavier streak, ‘Cheaper to Drink Alone’ allows them to dip their toes into classic rock sensibilities while ‘In My Blood’ brings a little bit of that country soul to the night. Each song is wrapped in powerful melodies that the crowd are more than happy to sing along to.
‘Things My Father Said’ is the emotional high point of the evening and it’s heart wrenching confession of grief is something that resonates with many, it brings a tear to the eye with the entire arena lit up by phones and lighters but yet there is something joyous in the power of music being shown to help up get through those hard times.
‘White Trash Millionaire’ begins the last stretch of chaos and stream rolls through to ‘Lonely Train’, while an encore of ELO’s ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ provides one last burst of energy before the night is over. An awesome and voice-shattering night from the co-headline acts. It’s the nature of the beast with a tour like this but there was only one negative, neither act played for long enough!