Justin Hawkins Rides Again – The Most Fun You Can Have Sans Catsuit

One of the most satisfying joys of recent years has been the inexorable rise from the ashes of Justin Hawkins and The Darkness, their phoenix-like resurrection to return as saviours of rock ‘n’ roll, something that has returned some high-volume fun back into this business we call music.

Justin Hawkins Rides Again

The LCR, Norwich – 18 March 2024

Words: Paul Monkhouse

Whilst their astronomical rocket ride, emerging from the pubs and clubs to selling out arenas and headlining festivals, was perceived as too much too soon and the sneering attitude of some in the scene misunderstood their humour for mocking the very music they played, here was a band who genuinely loved what they did.

A crash was possibly inevitable, and crash they did, but, learning lessons from the past, they returned and now are stronger than ever, their status as National Treasures assured.

Tireless in his work ethic, frontman Justin Hawkins is a human dynamo and his branching into the wild and wonderful world of podcasts and YouTube channels has seen the audience for his passionate ramblings and critique grow exponentially.

The Darkness - Monsters Of Rock Cruise
The Darkness – Monsters Of Rock Cruise. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk

With the wildly successful Justin Hawkins Rides Again giving him a way to interact with fans as never before, its five hundred and thirty-nine thousand subscribers and rising have found a place where they can be introduced to new music, star interviews and tales of life as a musician.

Easy going, witty, honest and with a unique perspective to most of the reaction channels on the platform, his regular posts have been a compelling visit for anyone seeking music-related entertainment. The idea to take the channel on the road for some select dates was somewhat of a left field one, but, as hoped, it all works rather beautifully.

Join Hillbilly Vegas on Tour This July

What better place to start the first night of the tour than in front of a welcoming crowd at Norwich, the venue nearest to Hawkin’s beloved Lowestoft and the audience peppered with family and old friends?

The set-up is deceptively simple, the stage bare barring a few homely touches and a life-size cardboard standee of a certain Hollywood actor, a big video screen at the rear and a couple of guitars.

Sauntering onstage to a tumultuous reception, it’s obvious that nowhere suits Hawkins better than being in front of an audience, the packed room receiving him like a homecoming hero. Picking up his acoustic and singing the show’s theme song, it’s then straight into his exploration as to what the audience loves about certain songs, hooks and key writing tropes expanded upon.

It’s an interactive start, a questionnaire sent out to those present beforehand making suggestions and talking points, the reactions of some there surprising others as personal preferences are held up to a microscope.

Far from dry academia, Hawkins comments and discusses his thoughts with his usual humour and throwaway asides, a master ringmaster at play. Jumping from AC/DC’s Thunderstruck to the B52’s Love Shack, via Psychokiller by Talking Heads, the talk falls on the latest No1 single, Texas Hold ‘Em by Beyonce, the odd crossover from pop, R&B to country.

It may say a lot about the audience that many had not heard the track at all, this writer included, but with its eight writers, the song seems like another product from a production line aimed solely at money but bereft of soul.

As a counterpoint to the slickness of this, following came the first of two music videos that could have possibly burnt itself into the memories of all who have witnessed its world-tilting magnificence. To say too much would be to spoil the surprise for other dates but it’s a good idea to book some therapy sessions now.

Closing the first section with a hilarious story about Ace Frehley, the show continued after a break as gig etiquette was discussed with input once more from the audience survey.

Ace Frehley - Monsters Of Rock Cruise
Ace Frehley – Monsters Of Rock Cruise. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk

Some small yet amusing struggles with the technology aside, there was a general air of agreement and this bonding laid the grounds to prepare for another extraordinary video. Again, no spoilers but it’s safe to say that future attendees of the tour may never be the same again.

Rounding off the night discussing wardrobe issues and an analysis of local musician Chad Mason’s rather wonderful self-penned The Long Grass, the artist joining Hawkins onstage, it was all over, the evening having flown by.

With the promise that no two shows will be the same, there’s certainly a lot of mileage possible and those who enjoy the YouTube channel will find plenty to love here.

Justin Hawkins Rides Again, the most fun you can have sans catsuit?

Quite probably.

Justin Hawkins Rides Again Tour Poster
Justin Hawkins Rides Again Tour Poster

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