If you’ve paid any attention at all to the Canadian music scene in the past five years, Arkells is a name you couldn’t possibly have missed. With three Juno awards under their belt (and numerous other nominations), they have become a household name in modern Canadian Rock music. But it wasn’t always like this. The Arkells worked hard for their newfound glory, playing everything from university-sponsored pub nights to the BC Lions Grey Cup tour of 2012. You’d be hard pressed to find a modern band that works harder and has a more intimate connection with their fans. And so, it was really no surprise when Arkells were announced as the surprise guest at a Blue Jays Home Opener viewing party at the Commodore Ballroom.
While the game itself ended in an unfortunate loss, the band came out with enough energy to cheer everyone up. Joined by two saxophonists and a trumpeter, their sound was grander than ever. Their new album, Private School, may as well be titled Rockin’ Love Songs for the 21st Century: Between tunes like “And Then Some” (a song about making out in the closet at a Christmas party) and “Savannah” (“Savannah would ramble on about ancient traditions/She said, ‘I don’t need no minister to give you my heart’”), the Arkells have absolutely nailed both the modern rock single and the millennial love story.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the live debut of their new song “Knocking at the Door”. The song, a raucous rebellion anthem, is a front-to-back barn raiser. It’s simultaneously the most grandiose and combative tune that Arkells have ever put out, and if the blaring brass section doesn’t knock you off your feet, the sheer ferocity of lead singer Max Kerman’s voice will. Without being quite so overt, it almost comes off as an homage to Rage Against the Machine. Lyrics like “When the power’s with people/I don’t get pessimistic/standin’ shoulder to shoulder/I hold my head high” send a clear message: if you’ve been looking for a fight song, you’ve found it.
The vitality and pure joy that infects everyone in the room at an Arkells concert is hard to describe. It’s rare to go an entire song without the audience singing at least a portion – Mass sing-alongs like the chorus of “11:11” and call and response sections like in “Oh, The Boss is Coming!” get the audience engaged like no other concert I’ve ever seen. At the center of it all is Kerman, the great conductor, whose penchant for outrageous antics and audience interaction drives the machine. During “Private School”, he even invited an audience member on stage to play the end of the song on guitar (great job Chris!).
This show kicked off Arkells newest North American tour, so if they are coming by your town, I highly recommend checking them out. You won’t regret it.
- Drake’s Dad
- Ballad of Hugo Chavez
- Come to Light
- A Little Rain (A Song for Pete)
- Knocking at the Door
- Never Thought That This Would Happen
- And Then Some
- Oh, The Boss is Coming!
- My Heart’s Always Yours
- Cynical Bastards
- Leather Jacket
- Private School
- I Want You Back (Jackson 5 Cover)
- Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen Cover) (Acoustic)