HIGH-VOLT­AGE ARKELLS

Home­grown band rev­els in ‘the big­gest head­line show we’ve ever had’

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - GRA­HAM ROCK­ING­HAM grock­ing­ham@thes­pec.com 905-526-3331 | @Rock­atTheSpec The Hamil­ton Spectator

It was eight years ago, al­most to the day. The Arkells were at the old Pep­per Jack Café on King William Street, play­ing a fi­nal home­town show be­fore em­bark­ing on a cross-Canada tour to plug their newly re­leased de­but al­bum, “Jack­son Square.”

About 100 lo­cal fans showed up to send them off. It was an amaz­ing night. The band played with Spring­steen-like en­ergy. The sparks that came off that stage were al­most vis­i­ble. And there were all these in­cred­i­ble songs — these fresh faced Mac grads were singing about Hugo Chavez, John Len­non, cham­pagne so­cial­ists and ro­mance in the food court.

Ev­ery­one there that night knew this band was go­ing places.

Fast for­ward to Fri­day night at FirstOn­tario Cen­tre, just a cou­ple of blocks from where the Pep­per Jack once stood.

Four al­bums and four Juno Awards later, the guys are pretty much the same — Max Ker­man up front, Nick Dika on bass, Mike DeAn­ge­lis on lead gui­tar and Tim Ox­ford on drums; only the key­board player, An­thony Carone, has changed.

Still the same en­ergy, still the same smart songs — al­ways a cut above the rest — just a lot more of them.

But in­stead of 100 fans, there are 10,000. Wel­come home, Arkells.

Some long­time Arkells fans feel the band has left its garage roots and en­tered the world of pop. On record, they might be right. The new al­bum “Morn­ing Re­port” is low on so­cial com­men­tary, big on beats and hooks.

But on­stage, the Arkells haven’t lost any of their punch­ing power. As a mat­ter of fact they’ve learned a few tricks and built up their con­fi­dence, mak­ing those new ra­diofriendly songs take on arena-rock per­sonas.

To add a lit­tle more punch, the band brought along two backup singers (the Ar­kettes) and a three­piece horn sec­tion.

“This is the big­gest head­line show we’ve ever had,” Ker­man said af­ter singing the band’s cur­rent hit sin­gle, “My Heart’s Al­ways Yours.” “This is way big­ger than we could ever have imag­ined.”

Ker­man has be­come the con­sum­mate front man, bring­ing the au­di­ence into the show from the out­set.

It wasn’t a dif­fi­cult task. Ev­ery­one in the crowd seemed to know the lyrics to each of the 23 songs the Arkells per­formed dur­ing their two-hour set. Dance party. Max­i­mum fun. Sweat and spill beer.

“If I jump, will you catch me?” Ker­man asked half­way through the open­ing num­ber, “A Lit­tle Rain.”

Sure enough he dived into the au­di­ence, mi­cro­phone in hand, still singing as he surfed across the front rows. It was a jump all five mem­bers of the band re­peated near the end of the night dur­ing their pre-encore closer, “Pri­vate School.”

They pulled songs from all four al­bums, reach­ing back to “Jack­son Square” for their first hits “Oh, the Boss Is Com­ing” and “Bal­lad of Hugo Chávez.”

In the mid­dle of “Pullin’ Punches,” they brought out open­ing act Frank Turner to take the lead vo­cals on a med­ley of Mo­town songs — Jackie Wil­son’s “Higher and Higher,” the Jack­son 5’s “I Want You Back” and the Temp­ta­tions’ “My Girl.”

There was also plenty from the lat­est al­bum “Morn­ing Re­port,” in­clud­ing a rau­cous “Drake’s Dad” and a gen­tle acous­tic ver­sion of “And Then Some.”

For those who like their Arkells a lit­tle more po­lit­i­cal, Ker­man dropped an LRT plug into the song “Cyn­i­cal Bastards;” ded­i­cated “Whistle­blower” to Spectator re­porter Molly Hayes, who is mar­ried to gui­tarist DeAn­ge­lis and, dur­ing “Hung Up,” gave a shoutout to “all the Hamil­ton women” who par­tic­i­pated in the Wash­ing­ton protests against Trump.

This was an im­por­tant con­cert for the Arkells, val­i­da­tion that 10 years of hard work has paid off and proof that good things will hap­pen if you write strong ma­te­rial, refuse to com­pro­mise and make sure your au­di­ence has a great time while do­ing it.

But it’s by no means the pin­na­cle for this band that has re­mained so loyal to its adopted city of Hamil­ton.

The Arkells is a band that has got­ten bet­ter with ev­ery al­bum and ev­ery con­cert. There’s no rea­son why we can’t ex­pect more al­bums, more Junos and more sold out are­nas across the coun­try.

Wel­come home, Arkells. Let’s do it again real soon.

SCOTT GARD­NER, THE HAMIL­TON SPECTATOR

Arkells mem­bers, from left, An­thony Carone, Max Ker­man, Tim Ox­ford (hold­ing phone), Nick Dika and Mike DeAn­ge­lis are sil­hou­et­ted against thou­sands of cell­phone lights dur­ing the band’s sold-out show at FirstOn­tario Cen­tre Fri­day. How did the group fare at their big­gest ever head­line show on home turf? Read Gra­ham Rock­ing­ham’s re­view on G4. For a be­hind-the-scenes look, check out Tues­day’s Go sec­tion.

SCOTT GARD­NER, THE HAMIL­TON SPECTATOR

Max Ker­man of Arkells crowd surfs dur­ing the band’s sold-out show at First On­tario Cen­tre Fri­day night.

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