There’s something so special about being witness to a band’s hometown show. When I learned that I’d be in Toronto for Arkells‘ hometown show in Hamilton, ON, just an hour away, I knew I had to be there. I’d been following the band for only a few years, but after being blown away by their performances at SXSW, I knew that they provided an intense energy and stage presence that was only set to amplify when they were back home.
Being a huge fan of Frank Turner‘s music as well, I was stoked to see that the two were sharing the bill. Having seen Turner perform in a variety of settings over the last six years, I knew what to expect, but even still, I was blown away by his opening performance for Arkells. His energy is unmatched (except perhaps, by Arkells), and his combination of audience and band interaction make for an incredibly compelling performance. At one point, Arkells’ Max Kerman joins Turner on stage for a short stint playing the harmonica—the first, but not the last of the two artists sharing stage time.
By the time Arkells take the stage the audience is roaring and ready to go, and with a thunderous applause, they welcome them—Max Kerman (vocals/guitar), Mike DeAngelis (vocals/guitar) Nick Dika (bass), Tim Oxford (drums), and Anthony Carone (keyboard/vocals). It’s clear from the onset that the band is home and 100% in their element. Between the packed in crowd who can’t stop jumping around and singing the words to every song, to the genuine smile plastered on Kerman’s face from the moment they take the stage, there’s never a doubt that this band is exactly where they want to be.
They soar through all of their hits —”Oh, The Boss is Coming!'”, “My Heart’s Always Yours”, “Private School”, “Drake’s Dad”, as well as “Leather Jacket”, “Whistleblower”, and their own ode to Hamilton, “Cynical Bastards” in the encore. However, it isn’t just the hits that they play—for their hour and a half
set they touch on tracks from all four albums, even slowing things down with”Passenger Seat” before a beautiful stripped down version of “And Then Some”, which had the audience taking out their lighters and phones, creating a sea of light across an otherwise completely dark arena. It was easily one of the most touching moments of the evening.
Throughout the show there are plenty of guest appearances, including backup singers and a horn section. Not to be forgotten, one of the best parts of the show was seeing both Turner and Arkells interact with one another’s set. At one point, Turner came out wearing a Hamilton Tiger-Cats jersey, for a little Motown Karaoke, where he performed various Motown songs, including “Higher and Higher” (Jackie Wilson) “I Want You Back” (the Jackson 5) and “My Girl” (The Temptations).
(credit: Ryan VanDrie of if & when)
Both Turner and Arkells are incredibly captivating performers on their own, but together, they become a dynamite combination, playing off one another’s energy, and creating a night full of memories that I’ll hold dear for years to come.
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