You couldn't turn on rock radio (particularly the late, great WBCN) a decade ago without hearing a falsetto vocal that, at first listen (and even many times after that), reminded you of the iconic Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury.
But it was Justin Hawkins, lead singer of British glam-rock band The Darkness, screaming out the chorus for "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" (which I guess could be a higher-pitched version of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love") that dominated the radio in 2003. (The song reached No. 87 on VH1's countdown of The 100 Greatest Songs of the '00s.)
The Darkness, who come to Paradise Rock Club in Boston on Saturday night, followed up their debut album, Permission to Land, which topped the British album charts and went five times platinum there (going gold in the United States) with their second album, One Way Ticket to Hell ... and Back, which went gold in the U.K. before that second album title became reality.
Hawkins went to rehab for reported alcohol and cocaine problems in 2006, then announced that fall he was leaving the band. Five years later, Hawkins returned and the band (which had been on hiatus) began touring and working on a new album, Hot Cakes, which came out last August. (Footage of the band's performance at the 2011 Download Festival from England shows up from time to time on HD channels like Palladia, where you'll see thousands of fans rocking to their inspired take on "I Believe in a Thing Called Love.")
Hot Cakes has reached No. 4 on the British album chart and The Darkness opened for Lady Gaga on the European and African leg of her The Born This Way Ball tour last year.
Known for their somewhat outlandish style, bass player Frankie Poullain told me recently that it was Hawkins' idea to break from the pack of bands who all dressed in a more conservative, stylish fashion.
"When we were coming on the scene, everyone dressed down," Poullain told me. "We had to exaggerate what it is that made us different. We had to find a kernel that makes you who you are and take it to the max. As Justin says, if it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing."
Poullain sees the clothing and over-the-top attitude as a "shield. We played a lot of gigs and wanted to get a reaction from the crowd."
Yet, the look and attitude really weren't who the band members were ... at first. "Somewhere along the way, our shyness dropped off. Now, we're annoying exhibitionists!"
Interestingly, the band opened for Meat Loaf early in their career, picking up cues from his theatrical approach to the concert stage. "We used to see him spend two hours before each show psyching himself up. He's a different character onstage than he is offstage."
Suffice to say, Poullain and the rest of The Darkness are as well.
The Darkness play at Paradise Rock Club, 967 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, on Saturday night, Jan. 19. The show begins at 8 p.m., but The Darkness are expected to take the stage at 9. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at the box office or through Ticketmaster.