The Darkness with the Southern River Band – The Castle Sessions at Warwick Castle, July 4th 2024.

    Photography by Rob Hadley - Indie Images Review by Reg Richardson

    It’s the 4th of July and it’s likely there’ll be some fireworks on and off the stage as The Darkness descends on historic Warwick Castle for another of the Castle Sessions. Seeing The Darkness in broad daylight might seem a little contradictory but there were several thousand fand in the castle grounds well up for it and ready for an evening of rock’n’roll.
    To get the fans warmed up we had a band from down under who have struck up quite a relationship with The Darkness; this was The Southern River Band who took full advantage of the historic setting coming on to the stage in most appropriate costumes with two of the band members dressed as knights and the remaining two as monks, plus one pantomime horse galloped into view. These lads have developed a fair fanbase with their own headline dates sitting either side of this support slot so let’s see what they have to offer.
    They’re Australian, they’re a rock band, so how are they going to sound – it doesn’t take many guesses to suss that one out. They’re a basic, down-to-Earth pub rock band with riffs seemingly taken from Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad and, of course, Airbourne –they rocked the stage at the same time as swilling down copious amounts of alcohol. Every song was a belter, every other song seemed to be about a meth dealer. The mullet headed Cal Kramer, standing front and centre, guided the set with his sweary banter and the crowd loved every second of it.
    The 45 minutes of rock rowdiness flew by and the crowd reaction was as much in appreciation of SRB as it was in expectation of what was to come. Cal Kramer was gushing about his (and the band’s) appreciation for the support given by The Darkness and they’re a band to be added to any rock addicts list of ‘must sees’.

    Get ready for the fireworks, The Darkness are headed for the stage.
    The band, originally formed in Lowestoft, Suffolk, in 2000, recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first album, Permission to Land (2003), so it was, perhaps, no surprise that this provided the bulk of the songs performed tonight. The band enter the stage to the sound of Abba’s Arrival being played in the background, though you could barely hear that above the noise the crowd were making. In all honesty, for a band long dubbed a ‘joke band’ by critics they have collected a huge following and, having seen them several times before, it’s quite easy to see why.
    Abba dies away to be replaced by the first of the Permission to Land songs, Growing On Me. Just for a change, Justin Hawkins comes on stage dressed quite normally, no bright red jumpsuit tonight, just a vest and pinstriped trousers, he looks like he means business.
    Justin came on stage looking fairly normal, Frankie Poullain, on the other hand, looked his usual dapper self. A shiny black, snake-skin textured suit with a giraffe shirt underneath and white sneakers. He’d clearly spent all his money on the suit, shirt and shoes because he seemingly couldn’t afford socks!
    Alongside these two were Justin’s brother, Dan, on guitar and sat at the back, Rufus Taylor on drums.
    It takes no time at all for the banter from Justin to start and it never really let up, plenty of dashing around the stage, head-stands on the drum riser, lots of chat about anything he could think of.
    With most songs coming from Permission to Land there wasn’t too much room in the 90 minute set for too many other songs but the first of these was the Motorheart (2021) title track. The amount of smoke on stage was pretty high and not too much of it accountable for by the giant sparklers, audience-facing smoke cannons nor the flame-throwers. Add to this lot a demonstration of fireworks launched from the castle ramparts and you have a quite spectacular show.
    The Permission to Land performance continued with interruptions from songs taken from Easter is Cancelled, Pinewood Smile, Last Of Our Kind to add to the single Motorheart inclusion.
    Eleven songs went by, by which time Justin had long dispensed with his vest, thankfully the rest of the band remained fully clothed, and the band leave the stage to catch their combined breaths before returning for an extended encore which kicked off with a few bars of the rather premature Christmas Time and this had the crowd singing along. I got the impression there was some disappointment when the song ended abruptly to be replaced by Rock and Roll Deserves To Die. The disappointment, as muted as it was, was replaced by the biggest cheer of the night as the band launched into I Believe in a Thing Called Love at which point the band were joined on stage by Cal Kramer from SRB taking over Justin’s  guitar role. By now, the fireworks from the castle ramparts were getting more frequent and as the band finished off with Love On The Rocks With No Ice there was an extended firework display to light up the castle grounds.
    I’d say that the crowd felt they were well entertained, the band put on a great performance belying their label as a ‘joke band’ completely. The band reckon they’ll be back next year – whether or not it’s to the castle is another matter, but if it is then it’s a show not to miss.
    Credit must go to AEG Presents, in particular Ruhi Malhotra for her help on the night, as well as Wilful Publicity for arranging the passes.


    Arrival (Abba song played in the background)
    Growing on me
    Get your hands off my woman
    Givin’ up
    Heart Explodes
    Solid Gold
    Japanese prisoner of love
    Friday night
    Stuck in a rut
    Love is only a feeling

    Christmas time – don’t let the bells end (sample)
    Rock and roll deserves to die
    I believe in a thing called love (with Cal Kramer from SRB)
    Love on the rocks with no ice



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