Live Review: Black Stone Cherry/The Darkness AO Arena, Manchester – 02/02/23

Gallery: Danko Jones

Forming in 2000 in Lowestoft, British rock band The Darkness burst into the UK music scene following the success of their 2003 debut album Permission to Land which spawned the ever popular ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ and was followed up by a further six top 20 albums. The band line-up tonight is one that has changed ever so slightly from the original formation, with founding members Justin Hawkins (vocals), Dan Hawkins (guitar) and Frankie Poullain (bass) joined by Rufus Taylor (drums) who has been with the band since 2015.

The Darkness are renowned for bringing a high energy set and tonight is no different. With Justin’s flamboyant frontman leaps and struts, he brims with confidence and it’s no surprise that during his career, enviable comparisons to stalwarts of the rock and roll genre such as Freddie Mercury are thrown around.

Justin delivers a perfect vocal, hitting those falsetto notes with relative ease and entertaining the crowd throughout whether through a singalong or as he wanders through the crowd on the shoulders of a crew member and struts his stuff on the stage. Dan and Frankie rock their guitar work whilst Rufus is a beast on the drums and there’s even a cowbell thrown in for good measure! Perhaps unsurprisingly, classic tracks such as ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’, ‘Love Is Only a Feeling’ and ‘Growing on Me’ are the most popular tracks of the night, but titular track ‘Motorheart’ from their 2021 album is also well received.


Growing on Me

Black Shuck


One Way Ticket

Heart Explodes

Solid Gold

Love Is Only a Feeling

Japanese Prisoner of Love

Givin’ Up

Get Your Hands Off My Woman

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Love on the Rocks With No Ice

You’d be forgiven for thinking after this performance and the production behind it, that The Darkness were the headline act, but this is a co-headline tour and the stage is now set for Black Stone Cherry. They hail from Kentucky, forming in Edmonton in 2001 and are made up of current members Chris Robertson (vocals), Ben Wells (guitar), Steve Jewell (bass) and John Fred Young (drums). As Sam Smith’s newest track ‘Unholy’ is played through the speakers, the band enter stage and launch into fan favourite ‘Me and Mary Jane’. 

The selection of songs spans all of their albums and Black Stone Cherry leave no stone unturned with the guitarists full on headbanging and rocking away as they tear through their riffs whilst Chris holds the centre stage in an almost disguise get up, hiding behind a hat and sunglasses as John drums monstrously at the rear. With smoke cannons galore accompanying the songs, they may not have the glitz and glam of The Darkness but they are still providing a set with full production value.

Upbeat tracks ‘Burnin’ and ‘Blind Man’ ensure full participation from the audience, however the set offers some light and shade with the poignant track ‘Things My Father Said’ dedicated to Chris’ late father as fans held their phone torches aloft, singing along to every word.

On paper The Darkness and Black Stone Cherry may have felt a little too different to be together on a co-headline tour but it just works, with each band bringing their own sense of style and swagger guaranteeing each audience member has a fantastic night!


Me and Mary Jane



Soul Creek

Blind Man

In My Blood

Out of Pocket

Like I Roll

Cheaper to Drink Alone

Things My Father Said

White Trash Millionaire

Blame It on the Boom Boom

Lonely Train

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