It seems the entire nation is in a love affair with the Hamilton-based Arkells, and last Thursday night (or “Saturday” if you ask the band) it was Edmonton’s date night with Canada’s boyfriends. Touring their latest release, High Noon, the band stopped in for an intimate, private acoustic show at Sonic 102.9 studios before blowing up a sold-out show at Union Hall. If it seems like their album release is old news, well it might be, but that is in part the point; the Canadian tour immediately following their previous album Michigan Left had them playing to too-tame an audience. The band wanted to make sure fans had fully experienced and grown to love the album so they could fully enjoy the show to its maximum potential. And their plan worked–with the growing popularity of their latest singles “Come To Light”, “Leather Jacket”, and “Dirty Blonde”, it was par for the course that the concert was off-the charts.
“Whether you have to thank your mom, or you have to thank your friend, you are here tonight and for that we can all be thankful.” Taking the stage with unparalleled energy (and a #20 Arkells Oilers jersey strategically placed on stage), the band jumped into their first new single, “Come to Light”, to mark the start of this remarkable night. After finishing the European league of their tour and a series of sporadic of gigs around central Canada, it may have been expected and maybe even moderately permissible if the band showed hints of fatigue, but their enthusiasm only escalated throughout the evening without waning for even a second. It was more like the Arkells came to see Edmonton, rather than Edmonton coming to see the Arkells. The band blended their alternative rock sound with funky vibes and a modern jazz inspiration as perfectly as the cream in one’s coffee on a late Sunday morning while trying in a daze to decipher what constitutes as successes and losses from the night before.Old hits were also far from forgotten during this incontrovertible concert-turned-dance party with the band playing up the audience to classics such as “On Paper”, “Ballad of Hugo Chavez”, and “Oh! The Boss Is Coming” (before which they offered a pre-emptive apology to the professors and bosses present in the audience). With only two rules, “to get the dance floor bumpin’ and to blow the roof off this place”, the band legitimately led and the audience willingly followed to the late hours of the evening.
Taking a minor teaser break, the band returned quickly for an impressive, show-stopping encore. With the accompaniment of opening band Dear Rouge, the Arkells delved fearlessly into a rendition of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to add some classic Motown celebration into the evening. Next, the band broke down to do a ballad-style of their hit “Book Club”, with Kerman at the helm with an acoustic and Carone and Deangelis accompanying with the most delicately beautiful harmonies. Explaining the meaning of this song, the band gave a quick nod to Sarah McLaughlin as the saviour that kept one of their lifelong friendships together. Of course the night would not have been complete without the grand finale of “Leather Jacket”, topped off appropriately with confetti cannons, that left the audience on the highest of notes.
If there was ever a time to resurrect the adjective ‘groovy’ as a regular part of our musical vernacular, the Arkells are certainly ushering in that era. With their hearts on their sleeves, they played a passionate, unimaginably energentic show, with their gratitude for their fans at the forefront for every second. Additionally, $1 from the sale of each ticket was dedicated to Arcade Fire’s Plue One initiative which supports Partners in Health in helping to build and support health infrastructure around the world.
They Arkells are now on the road again to finish the rest of their Canadian tour, then off to the US, but for a thread of hope to get us through this final dreadful stretch of winter, the Arkells promised an Edmonton return this summer.
Photography courtesy of Anthony Houle Photography.