Permission to Download
"Give me a 'D'! Give me an 'Ownload!'" shouts frontman Justin Hawkins to an adoring Donington crowd. As The Darkness blister though an extraordinary hour-long set, it comes as no surprise that the English band had managed to secure the sub-headline slot on the main stage at one of the world's most famous rock festivals. With bassist Frankie Poullain having left the group in 2005, it seemed that Justin Hawkins departing the band in 2006 to enter rehab for his drug addiction would truly mark the end of The Darkness. Even if fans were lucky enough to be gifted a reformation, wishing that the original line-up would unite somehow felt too ambitious. However, with side projects such as Hot Leg and Stone Gods remaining comparably less successful and Eurovision endeavours proving worthless, it became more and more hopeful that the four-piece, renowned for their live shows, would wish to revisit the success they achieved in the early 2000s.
Returning to the festival for the first time in eight years, it would have been expected for The Darkness to be showing signs of nerves. However, these signs were nowhere to be seen with all four members fully committed to their mission of delivering tongue-in-cheek rock 'n' roll; Justin Hawkins, in particular, putting in an absolutely sublime vocal performance. Opening with instrumental track 'Bareback' seemed an odd choice, as it allowed for some of the building anticipation to disperse. With only a 60 minute set, it surely would have been more effective to strike whilst the iron was searing with heat, rather than letting it slowly cool in the Donington breeze for the first five minutes. However, as soon as they forcefully launched into 'Black Shuck', the pyrotechnics erupted and all was forgotten as the band rammed into overdrive.
'Growing On Me,' 'Get Your Hands Off My Woman,' and the unforgettable, 'I Believe In a Thing Called Love,' were all met with euphoric responses, as male fans in particular relished the opportunity to relinquish their masculinity and scream in falsetto at the very top of their lungs. The aptly named 'Friday Night' provided a joyous sing-along for all and it was such moments that highlighted the communal spirit of the set (and the festival in general); fans from all over the country (and all over the world) bonding together in celebration of the band's music. A true Download moment.
Justin Hawkins may well have been sporting a moustache not too dissimilar to that of Hercule Poirot, but it was no mystery as to why The Darkness had been invited back to Download. There is simply nothing quite like seeing (and hearing) a mass of thousands of people join Justin Hawkins as he superbly delivers his falsetto vocal parts. Finishing the set with 'Love On the Rocks With No Ice', The Darkness set the standard for the festival, leaving main stage headliners Def Leppard with no chance of topping a remarkably entertaining show.