Prior to my short vacation to Malaysia and Singapore, my first gig of the year was watching The Darkness at the City Hall with some mates. I last saw this Lowestoft quartet nearly a decade ago, come to think of it. Their sophomore effort was somewhat so-so, and the following years saw Frankie Poullain leaving the band, as well as some other crap that seems to happen in bands that do very well somewhat immediately after their major label debut.

Some may think of them as a novelty act, but since day one, I liked the band for their hook-laden songs, no matter how contrived their lyrics may be. And these lads can play. Flying white tiger aside, I thought the show I saw all those years ago was actually bloody brilliant.

So, the band’s back playing Sheffield as the first date of the UK leg of the Let Them Eat Cakes World Tour, and most importantly, with Poullain back in the fold and a record out titled Hot Cakes. I’ve to say despite not knowing a single tune from their current record, and half-remembering the titles of their old ones, I’d see them live, since it’ll be a good night out with friends anyway.

The opener was Ginger Wildheart, which was already onstage by the time we got to our seats. I’ve never really listened to The Wildhearts, although I do remember Ginger and his erstwhile band during the days when bands who all look like Izzy Stradlin were the shiznit (think Dogs D’Amour). Following Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back In Town playing on the tannoy, The Darkness’ set began with the ever-familiar bagpipe-y Arrival by ABBA. Justin Hawkins et al. then kicked the set off with Every Inch of You from their current record. The only constant since the time I last saw them were Dan and Ed. Frankie still has the crazy ‘fro although he’s now missing his signature zapata ‘tache. And Justin looks like a cross of Sir Francis Drake and Jack Sparrow. But looks aside, they still freakin’ rocked. I’ve said it before and will say it again now – the band’s got some of the best twin guitar work since Lizzy’s Gorham and Robertson.

A little technical problem with Dan’s Marshall saw the band re-starting Black Shuck. They played a fair number of their more familiar numbers and it’s fair to say I was more looking forward to their eponymous material from their debut record. Growing On Me was performed early on and Love Is Only A Feeling was played back to back with Friday Night (bring back the memories, guys!). I’ve to honestly say right now, I can’t really say anything more about their new material as I didn’t really listen to their second record, One Way Ticket…, and the songs from their current record were melding into one unrecognisable bunch of songs. Not in a bad way, mind ya.

They ended the main set with I Believe in a Thing, and for the encore they included a resounding cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit. I thought it was superb, and glad to find out later that it’s included in their current record. They ended with Love On The Rocks, this time sans white tiger – Justin has to make do sitting on Dan’s shoulders carrying him around the hall! The crowd demographics seemed a little housewifey and middle-agey, but hey, it was a good night out.

City Hall, Sheffield set 1.3.13: Every Inch of You / Black Shuck / Growing on Me / She Just a Girl, Eddie / One Way Ticket / Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us / Get Your Hands Off My Woman / Love Is Only a Feeling / Friday Night / Concrete / How Dare You Call This Love? / Givin’ Up / Stuck in a Rut / I Believe in a Thing Called Love // [Encore] The Best of Me / Street Spirit (Fade Out) / Love on the Rocks with No Ice