Review by Kirsti Salmi, Photos by Shannon Lepere
It’s a Sunday night at Crocks, and Arkells’ set feels more like a revivalist tent than a concert. “Let’s get the dance floor shaking,” screams frontman Max Kerman, like an indie rock preacher possessed. “Let’s burn the place to the ground, how ‘bout we do that. Loosen up – I’ve got the funk!” The whole of the bar is sweating, stomping, worshipping at their feet, eating up the histrionics. This is the show they’ve been praying for since High Noon was released.
Arguably, the Arkells’ hallmark is an uncanny ability to crank out eminently singable anthems. They’ve reached a point where they can comfortably trust entire verses to the audience without prompting. “I know it’s a Sunday night,” Kerman cheered, “but let’s get those Saturday night drinking voices going!” The crowd obliged, confidently knocking off classics “John Lennon” and “The Ballad of Hugo Chavez” with sophomore favourites “Michigan Left, “Paper,” and “Whistleblower.” Even the newest tunes, such as “11:11” and “Cynical Bastards,” were received as if long time favourites.
Despite a grueling winter tour, the band was loose, energetic, and hellbent on giving the weekend a proper send off. Kerman winkingly asked: “You guys gonna need a doctor’s note tomorrow? Who’s calling in sick?” before launching into “Oh, the Boss is Coming!” Whimsically, they dared everyone to dance like nobody’s watching during “Dirty Blonde.” Without missing a beat, they wove Motown classics seamlessly into the set with “Take Me to the River” and “Ain’t No Mountain.”
In a full-on fire and brimstone encore, the band delivered on funk promises with Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” But the undeniable show-stopper was “Leather Jacket,” thunderously hollered by both band and showgoers. “Thunder Bay, you brought us the spirit tonight,” Kerman laughed. If anyone in the crowd was a non-believer before the show, they definitely walked away an Arkells convert.