Admittedly, I am a little late on the Arkells bandwagon, having only really started listening to them last year. A friend of mine had been suggesting them for years, but he probably sees 92 concerts a year or something ridiculous, and while he definitely knows more about music than I do, his suggestions always come across as “music life lessons.” Anyway, I happened to hear “Come to Light” one day and was like, “What is this magic?!” I quickly purchased their latest album, last year’s High Noon, and listened to it on repeat with the fervour of a 14-year-old who “discovers” a band. Clearly, having the opportunity to see their sold-out show was like an early birthday present.
Vancouver-based electronic band Dear Rouge opened the show with a high-energy set that helped motivate the audience to start enjoying themselves. Vancouver concert-goers are notorious for seeming detached or aloof, even when the band the go to see is halfway through their show, so it was quite the feat by Dear Rouge to have sped that process along. Lead vocalist Danielle McTaggert was full of so much enthusiasm it was impossible to not enjoy their set. Using natural charisma and her strong vocal talent, McTaggert demonstrated that although Dear Rouge is a relatively new band, her and her husband, Drew McTaggert, are experienced musicians. The end of their set resulted in me learning that Dear Rouge won the Peak Performance Project grand prize in 2012 for a reason.
As soon as the Arkells took the stage, the crowd lost their minds a little bit. Wasting no time, and capitalizing on the enlivened atmosphere, the band opened with “Come to Light”. During their hour-and-a-half set, the amount of times lead singer Max Kerman did not have to sing was amazing to witness. With very little prompting, the crowd gladly took any opportunity to sing/shout lyrics back at the band, and while the crowd was having a fantastic time, it was more than apparent that the Arkells were having an even better time. It is clear that they truly love performing, and they don’t even have to perform their own songs. At one point, they broke into “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel (bonus points to the Arkells for that one). After their set was over, they came back for a 30-minute encore. For live shows, 30-minute encores have become a bit of a rarity, but for the Arkells, this is a regular Friday night. They even brought Dear Rouge back onstage to help perform the Motown hit, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. Eventually, good things come to an end, and the Arkells saved their hit, “Leather Jacket”, for very last. You know it has been an amazing show when the people who were trying to flee early to avoid traffic come running back up the stairs to ensure they hear every last song.
The Arkells put on an amazing show. If given the opportunity, make it a priority to see them live.