First up were Glasgow based brothers Christian & Craig McCabe aka a slimmed down version of the River 68’s. Taking to the stage with woolly jumpers, skin tight jeans and fur coats, the physical similarities with the main act did not go amiss. An impressive, albeit short, set ended with “Restless Bones” with the band themselves clearly lapping up the attention of the more than decent building crowd;Next up were the trio from Derbyshire, LostAlone, who play big anthemic metal tunes and were obviously fired up for their support slot. They’ve had some mainstream success and the single ‘Love Will Eat You Alive’ recently featured on Radio 1’s ‘In New Music We Trust’ segment. Guilty of over-doing the showboating and playing to the crowd, however initial impressions would indicate that there are the bones of some good tunes in there. Lead guitarist/vocalist Steven Battelle seemed particularly impressed with the Disney jacket he was wearing saying it was supposed to fit a nine year old. He was less impressed with the Ironworks nonplussed reaction. They were certainly lively enough but they were never in any danger of stealing the limelight from The Darkness. And so on to the main act. Where do you even begin to start? One of the most entertaining bands in rock play to a packed house at the Ironworks and put on one of the best shows of the year. There were of course doubts, they had to a cancel a show earlier on in the week due to doctor’s orders (Justin Hawkin’s voice had packed in) and there were concerns that this could well end up being a damp squib if they managed to turn up at all. Then on Thursday morning Hawkins posted on twitter;
Guess what? I woke up feeling totally up for it this morning. Inverness, bring the noise. — Justin Hawkins (@JustinHawkins) November 21, 2013And the noise was duly brought. It was always going to be a good night, let’s face it, were there really ever any doubts? The first third of the set was to be made up of the band ‘fucking around, just playing what we want’ with the rest of the set being taken up by their debut multi-platinum album ‘Permission to Land’ being played in full. They start silhouetted on stage joined together by hand as the intro music plays out before launching into ‘Making Out’. During this first song one of the stewards, Michael, is nearly throttled by Justin’s microphone cable. He’s alright though and apparently that kind of thing turns Justin on… ‘The Horn’ is accompanied by Frankie’s ‘aggressive brown bastard bass’ and Hawkins offers to allow anyone who knew all the words to ‘Curse of the Tollund Man’ to cup his balls or place one knuckle in his anus…. moving swiftly on! The band were in ebullient form, no indication was given that there had been any issues with Justin’s vocals, his range is incredible and it really is something to behold when you get the full force of the live experience. Queries from a member of the audience about a new album were met with ‘it’s not a fucking interview, no more questions!’ They strut, preen, cloaks are worn and a stripy Lycra unitard is most definitely present, but the the scrawny wee git pulls it off. And just to confound any doubters in regards to his health he spent part of ‘Get Your Hands off My Woman’ doing a headstand, simply because he can. Their version of ‘Street Spirit’ by Radiohead never fails to entertain; speeded up into a power metal anthem it arguably sounds far superior to the original maudlin indie anthem. A brief interlude as a cowbell is lowered from the ceiling and placed into the clutches of the bassist as before ‘One Way Ticket’ is performed with possibly the shortest drum solo in concert history, essentially just a 5 second fill! Now it’s time for Permission to Land . There’s another short intermission before a deliberately cheesy backing track is overlaid with a bit of spiel from each band member, “I know because I was there and it felt great”. And then it’s played in full. I’d forgotten what a damn fine album it is too, obviously the two big hits ‘Growing on Me’ and ‘I believe in a thing called love’ are early on in the album and I wondered whether they would do what Metallica did with the 20th anniversary shows for the Black Album and play it back to front, finishing with the most popular songs last. However the album is free of any filler tracks so that’s not going to be necessary and it’s great to hear tracks that you possibly wouldn’t normally hear played live. During all of this the Hawkins brothers are playing the guitar like men possessed, the two of them really are criminally under-rated as guitar players and there’s some real virtuosity to be seen here. Drummer Ed Graham bashes the hell out of the toms although for the most part keeps a low profile, whilst bassist Frankie Poullain powers the rhythm section along, interspersing it by flinging plectrums into the crowd like a leather cloaked priest dispensing alms to the poor. ‘Love on the Rocks’ extended guitar break features Justin playing a solo whilst sat on ,Red Ronson and Outsider, Dave Ramsey ‘s shoulders as they move through the crowd. The audience play their part too, they sing along, dance and wind him up by singing ‘…Bells End’ in the breaks between each song. He jokingly chastises them by saying ‘look you know what the order is, we play Permission to Land and then during the encore we’ll play the Christmas song, now just shut up and enjoy the fucking album’. And of course for the encore we do indeed get ‘Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End)’ but not before they spot Santa in the crowd and drag him on stage (Santa’s a big bloke, he needed the assistance of a couple of stage hands) to conduct the final song of the evening. Justin seems genuinely chuffed with the reaction from the audience, bands obviously like to feed us with the usual platitudes about being the best/noisiest/most fun crowd of the tour so far, but in their case it did seem genuine. At one point he pauses and says ‘This is the first time I’ve started to sweat on this tour, thanks’ and later on he tweets;
@IronworksVenue is my new favorite place. — Justin Hawkins (@JustinHawkins) November 21, 2013Hopefully our words and pictures will go some way to sharing what a cracking night out this was. Hugely entertaining, enormous fun and a shit ton of ROCK! What’s not to like? More photos of The Darkness, LostAlone and The River 68’s at the Ironworks.