We Believe In A Thing Called Love! The Darkness And Ed Sheeran Live At The Roundhouse

“If you’ve just walked in: I’m Ed, I’m a singer from Suffolk and you can find me on MySpace,” grins Ed Sheeran, the multi-award winning, stadium-hopping musician who just happens to be a huge fan of The Darkness, “I’m living the dream literally right now…” The thirty minute support set from Sheeran was just one of the ‘surreal moments unfolding before your very eyes’ that we’d experience at the Roundhouse, to borrow The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins’ phrase. Between the skin-tight catsuits, pyrotechnics and party choirs, The Darkness have evolved into a confident, grown-up rock band that weaponises the silliness at the heart of classic rock cliches. They’re no longer one-trick ponies: they’re rock ‘n’ roll survivors who know how to throw a heck of a party, ‘surreal’ as some parts of it may have been.

The Darkness @ Roundhouse

The Darkness @ Roundhouse (Nick Allan)
The Darkness @ Roundhouse (Nick Allan)

“Is it really him?” A woman with glittery face paint squeals at the sight of Sheeran onstage, whipping out her phone. His appearance was a closely guarded secret, and even on the photocopied sheets of stage times stuck to the walls of the venue he was referred to cryptically as ‘The ES’. While all of his songs are now instantly recognisable thanks to their permanent presence on the airwaves, when they’re presented like this it’s incredibly obvious why they became hits. Sheeran’s set is more of a time-warp than The Darkness’, a window back to when he was just a guy with a guitar. It’s a festive gift to see him outside of his normal habitat and the way he can ramp up a song from zero to a hundred in seconds is simply astonishing. There might be few opportunities to see Sheeran this way again, which makes the whole surprise that little bit more special.

Several years ago, critics said the same thing, albeit in a different context, about The Darkness. While they might have disappeared from the spotlight in 2006 and cautiously dipped their toes back into the rock water over the last decade, it was felt among some circles that they were done. That could not be further from the truth. Yes, this tour is to celebrate the anniversary of their debut, Permission To Land, so naturally they leaned on their multi-award winning first record for their setlist. But the Hawkins brothers remain the fashion-forward, charismatic performers they were some two decades ago. Justin Hawkins flips into a handstand, leading our claps with his feet, for Get Your Hands Off My Woman. We sing along joyfully as he exuberantly shows off his legendary falsetto. Growing On Me has achieved full hair metal classic status as it bounces along a neon sunset highway to our hearts.

The Darkness @ Roundhouse

The Darkness @ Roundhouse (Nick Allan)
The Darkness @ Roundhouse (Nick Allan)

While The Darkness may no longer be as edgy or boundary-pushing as they once were, they glow with this warmth of our support two decades later. More obscure tracks like The Best Of Me are appreciated live as part of the band’s leather-clad body of work and overall sound rather than being relegated to ‘album track’ status. “If you see someone filming and it bothers you in any way, throw it my way and I will insert it into my anus! A colonoscopy of their favourite rock,” declares Hawkins before taking us to LA via Lowestoft for Makin’ Out while the guitar sizzles as much as it ever did. He foppishly narrates his own drug experiences in the ‘seventeen years since he had a drink’, giving a very British theatrical twist to the Aerosmith-inspired Givin’ Up. Despite the occasional crudity, The Darkness are incredibly wholesome and professional, donning silk robes for encore I Love You 5 Times and punctuating Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) with a snow machine and a very enthusiastic choir.

Check out a video of Ed Sheeran and The Darkness rehearsing Love Is Only A Feeling backstage at The Roundhouse below:

Of course, Ed Sheeran returns to fulfil his childhood dream of singing with The Darkness. Love Is Only A Feeling, on which the two vocalists duetted, cements the band’s status as bona fide national treasures. Their past sins are now forgiven and a set as full of fun, dedication and good, old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll as this one deserves recognition. The Darkness are back on top as a rock band to be reckoned with.

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Live review of The Darkness live at the Roundhouse, London on 9th December 2023 by Kate Allvey. Photos by Nick Allan.

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