The moment that the Arkells took the stage, they dove straight into A Little Rain, off their most recent album, Morning Report. Providing the perfect launching point for frontman, Max Kerman, to captivate the audience. Kerman has a natural talent for connecting with the crowd: bouncing across stage, catapulting himself into the crowd, dropping shout-outs to local landmarks and calling out to fans in the distance; Kerman sparked an infectious energy that flooded through the cavernous space.
My seat, provided by the Arkells themselves, was directly opposite of the stage and the entire crowd was visible – and full. It was clear that after spending days cooped up in hiding from the latest snowstorm that the Halifax audience was ever willing to welcome an early weekend.
The arena didn’t sell out but the show that the Arkells put on – and the reactions from the crowd – completely ignored that reality. The band ripped through several singles from across their catalogue to begin the night, including Michigan Left, Come to Light, and John Lennon in rapid succession.
They have this infectious way of drawing the crowd in to every riff, lick, and syllable.
The Arkells’ many tracks are clearly road-tested, with cues and shifts so well choreographed it felt like the audience’s timed reactions were woven into the set. The group has a knack for getting the fans to raucously latch onto every hook, riff, and syllable. The band was clearly having a lot of fun, which made staying planted in my seat rather than dancing or rushing into the sectioned-off floor crowd a difficult feat.
The feel of the evening was a simple, ecstatic, rock and roll party – and the size of the venue didn’t make a difference. The kick of the drum and low-end bass came through especially well in the mixing, but what surprised me most were Kerman’s vocals.
Kerman can seriously sing when he stays in range, with some of the more growling moments ripping through the building and overpowering the instruments during more unhinged tracks. The frontman tested himself a bit more in Morning Report-era tunes, but the vocal struggles and cracks may have just been from fatigue – the newer songs only rolled out an hour into the two-hour-plus set.
There were too many memorable moments to list in the Arkells’ lengthy performance. Hammering solos from keyboardist Anthony Carone, a stripped-down acoustic circle surrounded by a sea of cellphone flashlights later in the set, a flurry of mini Bruce Springsteen covers featuring opener Frank Turner.
An audience member climbed onstage to take over Kerman’s guitar duties during Oh, the Boss Is Coming!’s climax. A layered introduction to encore the favourite Whistleblower. A sing-along worthy of a cheesy rom-com flick wrapped up the encore Leather Jacket.
For all the sounds and scenes, the evening at the Scotiabank Centre was a memorable one begging to be experienced and shared with friends. Just like any decent Friday night should be.