Review – Arkells at Venue, Vancouver, Nov 19 2009
– by Joshua Kloke
Watching Arkells play live in front of a sweaty, crowded room is a little like watching your best friend succeed at something always strived and longed for.
There’s an intimacy that’s immediately attained in seeing the Hamilton five-piece lay down their bare-bones roots rock. After a wash of airplay on modern rock radio across the country, Arkells played their inaugural headlining gig in Vancouver. Its likely that many in the audience were witnessing the group live for the first time, after missing their five (yes, five) gigs in Vancouver during the last year or so.
But the road hasn’t taken a nasty toll on the band. Gracing the stage with smiles as wide as the roads they’ve traveled, Arkells immediately bridged the gap between the stage and the crowd with a fresh yet dependable collective face.
With only one full-length under their belt, one might have expected the band to have grown tired of Jackson Square‘s 11 tracks. Instead, From the opener, the stompy and swirling “Blueprint”, to the band’s current single, “Pullin’ Punches”, every band member screamed along with lead singer Max Kerman’s beefy and emphatic vocals.
Considering the nature of its lyrics, opening with “Blueprint” was a telling move. In the tune, a young man struggles with the stagnant nature of his life and resolves to make changes and recapture his youth. Yet watching Arkells onstage ought to serve as inspiration for every young band trying to carve a name for itself. Simply put, Arkells are doing it. They’re making all the right moves and not looking back.
Songs like the rousing “John Lennon” were air-tight, and proved yet again how strong the band’s dedication to craft really is. If the pools of sweat onstage weren’t evidence enough, the entire set proved time and time again how hard Arkells are working for their success. And people are starting to take note.
Returning for an encore after the mass sing-a-long that was “Oh, The Boss Is Coming!”, the band lead the crowd through their take on “Amazing Grace” before launching into the almost tribal rock swagger of “Deadlines”. The choice of “Dancing In the Dark” to close the encore came as no surprise; at every turn, the band gets compared to Bruce Springsteen. But the Boss is as good a teacher as any rock band can learn from. Arkells might still be students of rock, but they’re at the top of the class.