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Viper Room Concert Review and Photos

March 26, 2009

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Justin Hawkins, former lead singer/spandex jumpsuit-wearer of The Darkness, played with his new band, the oddly-named Hot Leg Tuesday night at the Viper Room. Remember The Darkness? (click that link if you don’t). They were a magnificently silly British glam pop rock band from six years ago that fizzled out due to drugs and alcohol abuse (how shocking). Well, Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins is back.

There were three bands before Hot Leg, including The Hypo Twins, a group out of Arizona that plays a catchy dance/punk fusion with melodic vocals. They were pretty good, and most of their songs were about partying or dancing (or both). Despite having the word ‘twins’ in their name, the band was made up of four guys, but that did not prevent them from turning in a solid performance.

After the Hypo Twins, Birds of Tokyo, an Australian band, took to the stage. They have a very dynamic sound, and turned in an impressive performance. Apparently they are big in their home country already, and based on their performance, they seem primed for an American breakout as well. The lead singer has an eccentric stage presence, clapping along with the rhythms and then delivering powerful vocals that accentuate the driving riffs in a unique manner. Their songs were both catchy and aggressive, and made me want to check out their albums. They were a pleasant surprise, as I was expecting to witness a show filled with random LA local bands striving for Hollywood attention, and yet Birds of Tokyo showed up and blew me away.

After an excruciating forty-minute wait, Hot Leg appeared onstage, amid a furious fog machine and what was now a packed house. Everyone in attendance seemed to know the band’s songs, even though the album has not been released yet in the States. Hawkins, clad in a full-body black leather(ish) jumpsuit that was unzipped down the middle (of course) was in fine form.

The band’s songs are similar to those of the Darkness, but without some of the old band’s infectious catchiness. Despite that, Hot Leg turns out exceptionally solid glam rock songs with a pop sheen, as one would expect from something affiliated with Hawkins. The songs do retain some of the humor of the Darkness’ tunes, such as in the song ‘Cocktails’. The chorus of that song involves screaming the first syllable of the word ‘cocktails’ in a high pitched voice, then repeating the word a few times. It’s funny to see people singing that song, and Hawkins made sure to teach us all the chorus before they tore into it.

Between songs, he held the crowd in the palm of his hand, teaching the crowd the chorus to a song, but then making us all practice the vocal hook over and over to get the timing right. His banter between songs revealed him to be more than just a great showman, as he really knows how to engage a crowd and make it his own. He also hopped onto his roadie’s shoulders and rode around through the room and back to the stage while doing a guitar solo, something he did when I saw the Darkness back in 2003. It was pretty rock & roll.

When the Darkness broke up, I was saddened, since it left a gaping hole in the silly glam-rock genre. Yes, this type of music is silly and pointless, but it is still a lot of fun and is monumentally catchy. Hawkins’ crazy falsetto voice still amazes me, as he hits some notes that men simply are not supposed to be able to reach. The whole package is one that is supremely satisfying and, again, a whole lot of fun.

The rest of his band looks like a cheesy ’80s metal band, of course, but they play their roles perfectly. The sound at the Viper Room was crisp and clear, and it was a great way to experience the British glam rock ridiculousness that is Hot Leg.

I’m glad Justin Hawkins is back. It had been too long.

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