The Arkells submitted their nomination for Canada’s Best Rock Band at the Canada Life Center on Thursday night.
The Hamilton band have spent the past 16 years scoring Xs on the unofficial checklist: four No. 1 songs on the Canadian alternative rock charts; multiple Juno wins and nominations and a Gray Cup halftime performance when their hometown hosted the CFL’s big game last December.
They even played the Royal Albert Arms, which in Winnipeg might be the ultimate mark for a rock band.
In a YouTube video the Arkells posted ahead of Thursday night’s gig, they said they traveled 24 hours 14 years ago to play the famous punk-rock venue, which has hosted artists like Foo’s Dave Grohl Fighters and Green Day before. they hit the big time.
The band’s recollection of the gig, which they say only had 30 fans in the video, proves they learned some of the lessons from another Canadian band they opened for. arena rock concerts – the Tragically Hip – who have found so many ways to connect with fans across the country that they have stood alone atop Canada’s rock ‘n’ roll mountain for more than a decade.
The crowd reaction last night showed that the Arkells haven’t quite reached such heights as the Hip, but they are making the difficult climb to the top.
They started their set with Past Lifean excerpt from their latest album Blink twice, with frontman Max Kerman hopping and singing on the three-part stage that strode towards the fans on the arena floor.
It got the crowd bouncing, but they got pissed off for the second song, from 2014 Leather Jacket. They sang and hollered along with the song’s chorus, which begins “You can call me from a phone booth, I said ‘Hang on, I can take you home,'” before the band goes out and Kerman takes over to address the crowd. .
“It’s been three long years since we’ve been in Winnipeg, and it’s far too long,” the singer shouted to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd, who responded with song. Leather Jacketthe chorus even louder.
The stage included a backdrop with an eye-like light display that matched Arkells last two albums 2021 Flash once and Blink Twicewhich they released in September.
There was also a catwalk that connected the stage to a smaller one that allowed Kerman and the band to be surrounded by the general admission crowd on the floor. It’s a setup that’s becoming more common in arena gigs, whether performed by a big-budget touring band like the Lumineers or the Arkells, who move on a smaller budget.
The mini-stage had room for six people to join Kerman during the rocker People’s Champion – there was room for the four-piece horn section the Arkells added for this tour – and it turned an arena-rock gig into a nightclub, especially for the fans waiting by the rail just as the arena doors opened two hours before the Arkells took the stage.
The mini-stage was also a great place later for the acoustic ballad leave youwhich also allowed Kerman to mention that marathon 24-hour trip to Winnipeg in 2008.
Kerman was a ball of energy throughout the nearly two-hour set, whether he was leading the crowd’s cheers, leading a piano-drums duel or rapping during the chorus, which came late in the two-hour show. hours of the Arkells.
Valley, a four-piece band from Toronto, who were nominated for Band of the Year at the 2022 Junos, opened the show to a small but vocal crowd with a 40-minute set of indie rock.
They saved their best and heaviest streaming song for last. Like 1999 is a pandemic-era ballad that proves nostalgia even has a place among Gen Z. “Wish the year 2000 had happened, we’d stay classic forever,” sang singer Rob Laska . “You and I would both be trapped in 1999.”
Alan Small has been a Free Press reporter for over 22 years in a variety of roles, most recently as a reporter in the Arts and Life section.
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