The Arkells made their highly anticipated, supercharged return to our fair city last night at The Industry, touring through town to promote their new album aptly coined Michigan Left.
This sonically-pleasing, powerfully melodic Hamilton-based five member alternative rock ensemble made their debut in the city at last year’s Rogers Bayfest, opening for legendary The Tragically Hip and Joel Plaskett.
Sarnian’s had the historic Industry theatre almost to capacity well before the opening act, Toronto’s Toledo, left the stage at 9:50 p.m. Toledo, who came together in 2010, is another example of outstanding Canadian talent that rocked the stage like veterans for a good forty-five minutes as people kept piling into the venue. They managed to turn on and electrify the crowd and had the atmosphere pumped up before leaving the stage to make way for the main event.
After not much of a delay and with a couple hundred people now jammed in the venue like sardines in a can, the Arkells took the stage at 10:25 p.m. to thunderous applause and deafening cheering. The five-piece were bringing their signature soul-rock that fans got last year and they did not disappoint early on.
It was an eclectic crowd, with a heartening mix of young, old, and everywhere in between. The demographic was well represented, and united under a banner of drinking alcohol and genuine love for some good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. You’d have a hard time expecting anything but a diverse mix for a band that prides itself on the hymns of the everyday man.
Opening up with the title track from their sophomore album, Michigan Left, the enthusiastic crowd responded decisively with chanting, cheering, jumping, and screaming.
At one point during the show, Arkells front man Max Kerman told the crowd that Sarnia is one of the only cities that could possibly relate to album’s title, Michigan Left. Adding, that if you face north in Sarnia, Michigan is to the left.
Notably, the Arkells are crowd pleasers and fierce showmen in the most quintessential sense, frequently name dropping the city and intimately connecting to the audience on different levels throughout their almost 90 minute performance.
At one point, they paused and said that Sarnia is a hardworking town, continuing on that it’s a “much harder working town than London”, where they played the previous night. They also gave props to Sarnia for being a union town and told the crowd that they too were members of a union – the musicians union, Brantford local 467.
Assiduously atmospheric and aurally stunning, the Arkells give nods to other iconic bands with their powerful melodies, easily blending signature modern rock with a haunting familiarity akin to music from the 80s. You can clearly hear shades of Hall & Oates and Bruce Springsteen on top of a beautifully unique, melodic modern rock edge that sets the Arkells apart from a lot of their contemporaries.
After the band played “Where U Goin”, one of the best tracks from an album that could easily see multiple tracks top charts and hit pay dirt, they once again tipped their hats to Sarnia. They told the raucous crowd that the song was really about driving from Hamilton to Sarnia, which as you would expect caused another eruption of applause and cheering.
A more contentious moment in the night was when Kerman asked the crowd who were Toronto Maple Leafs fans, and who were Detroit Red Wings fans. It was all in good nature, but the audience was clearly polarized with their evenly divided response.
The introduction to “Deadlines” was a notable moment when Kerman lead the audience in a rousing chorus of “This little light of mine” while encouraging the audience to bring out their cell phones and lighters to “show them the light”.
As the night was coming to a close, the band ramped the crowd up another sonic notch and had everyone on their feet, dancing on the dance floor to their new high-velocity track “Whistleblower”. The crowd loved it and you could feel a sense of wanting more once the song was over – once again they didn’t disappoint their fans.
Moments after leaving the stage, they returned and played several encore songs one of them being, quite fittingly, Hall & Oates iconic hit “You Make My Dreams Come True”.
Despite their excellent stage presence and second to none showmanship, this was definitely a night where the music stole the show.