53 Degrees, Preston
The Darkness are in most danger of failing in the moments when they take themselves too seriously.
The brilliant schlock rock of their debut, Permission to Land, was gloriously over the top and both revered and parodied the stadium gods they grew up with.
But then it all got too serious. Second album, A One Way Ticket to Hell and Back, turned out to be just that, with Justin Hawkins checking into rehab, then the band disintegrating into two camps.
But, as both projects failed to deliver, this reunion seemed inevitable.
The big budgets have gone, so Justin no longer arrives onstage riding giant comedy breasts. But the parody – and the Spandex – is still there, although you wonder if they are still fully aware of it.
They clearly want fans to love their new album, Hot Cakes, so they split the show in two, announcing up front that the first half will be “all from the new album”.
New songs are politely received – and the best moment is their glammed up cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit, all squealing guitars and aching falsetto vocals.
But, while the infectious riffing remains, the tongue-in-cheek attitude has dimmed.
The second album gets the briefest of nods, with the title track closing the first half, But the second half is all Permission to Land and this is where they take flight.
Arms wave, girls scream, the band leap atop the drum riser in glorious rock poses and all is right with the world again.
As they encore with the world’s cheekiest Christmas single, it’s clear that the Darkness is a gift that keeps on giving. But only when they don’t think about it too hard.