Vancouver fans rally after Arkells frontman calls them out

The Arkells with Lord Huron at Pacific Coliseum, 2/2/19

Photo by Jenn McInnis

Max Kerman stood at the end of the stage about a third of the way through the Arkells’ performance at the Pacific Coliseum Saturday, Feb. 2 and told Vancouver fans that Edmonton was a lot louder than them.

“Vancouver kind of has a reputation for being too cool for school,” he chided the near-capacity crowd.

Kerman was wearing a fancy white jacket riddled with sequins, and black trousers pulled up to reveal white socks under black shoes. He and the Arkells had already ripped through half a dozen songs including “Relentless” and “Payphone” which saw him bounding up and down the runway non-stop. Even though Vancouver was much livelier than normal, he had every right to demand more from them.

The Arkells, the notoriously boisterous band from Hamilton, Ontario were the headliners for an evening that opened with neo-folk darlings Lord Huron.

Lord Huron @ The Pacific Coliseum
Lord Huron. Photo by Jenn McInnis

Fans of Lord Huron have no doubt been following the journey of Ben Schnieder’s anti-hero (or is it alter ego?) through his various phases of evolution. From the dreamy cowboy of Lonesome Dreams to the jilted nomad of Strange Trails and now as the disillusioned soul, searching for meaning in Vide Noir.   

Schneider and his intrepid band of brothers were in top form, possibly feeding off some of the high octane energy given off by the Arkells. Their hour-long set included a few songs from each stage album. This time, there was a female presence on the stage, tickling the keyboard and lending a beautifully haunting echo to a few select songs, most notably “Meet Me in the Woods.”

Even in it’s heyday the big knock on the Pacific Coliseum was the acoustics.  On Saturday, the audience missed out on some of the nuances of the richly layered musical tapestry Lord Huron bestowed upon them. Fortunately, plenty of hard core Lord Huron fans showed up early to hear some of their favorite tunes and they didn’t seem to mind at all.

Arkells @ The Pacific Coliseum
Photo by Jenn McInnis

When a band relies on the crowd to sing half their songs for them, acoustics are much less of an issue.

By the time Max Kerman called Vancouver fans out, he had already laid down the law (which interestingly, is exactly the same as former tour mate Frank Turner). Rule number one: You have to dance. Rule number two: You have to sing. Rule number three: you have to be good to each other.

All three rules are easily achievable. If the Arkells are known for one thing, it’s for writing catchy tunes, and Kerman only had to point the microphone towards the crowd to hear more than ten thousand fans singing every word back to him. Dancing is simply the next most natural thing as is being nice when there are several thousand people in one room thoroughly enjoying themselves.

What really sets an Arkells show apart is the way Kerman is able to keep a stadium of people totally energized for two full hours. Having a catalog of songs with catchy, yet memorable lyrics goes a long way. Lyrics about the little things in life, the kind of things that when you start to look back on it weren’t little at all.

“We’re stuck in the nosebleeds, baby.”

“You wore my jacket and I carried your purse”

Arkells @ Pacific Coliseum
Photo by Jenn McInnis

Highlights of the evening included a little crowd surf near the end of the set, an acoustic interpretation of “Kiss Cam” and a version of “Knocking at the Door” that very nearly raised the roof right off the Pacific Coliseum.

As the Arkells finished singing the last chorus of “Hand Me Downs” they walked off the stage while the crowd waved cell phone lighters and continued singing oh-oh-oh-oh-oh. It was a magical few moments.

They came back soon after for a short, but sweet encore; tearing into a rowdy sing-a-long of ABBA classic “Dancing Queen” before closing the night with a glowing rendition of “My Heart’s Always Yours.”

It might be a little too early to say this was the best concert of the year, but future acts should know, this show set the bar pretty high.

Photo by Jenn McInnis