Published Feb 17, 2012Arkells have been attracting a torrent of attention throughout much of Southern Ontario and Canada with the release of their sophomore LP Michigan Left. The group's working-class mentality and aesthetic have done them well in terms of both songwriting and publicity. And with their touring schedule being plenty generous, it's created many exciting opportunities for pop fans throughout Canada.
Gentleman Husbands started the night off right as the Venue began to fill. The Cobourg, ON outfit pulled all the right punches, from riling sing-along choruses and stomping barn-burners to Tom Petty covers. "American Girl" acted as their set closer, and there is no denying it got the Peterborough crowd into the night's events, the band's simplistic yet satisfying take on classic rock being just what a stiff crowd needed. Gentleman Husbands ended up being the perfect openers for Arkells, as they left the crowd aching for what they knew would be a significant night.
Arkells began their set with an intensity that is rarely seen -- an intensity that was straddled and solidified into an art. The group's soulful rock seemed to fit right in before a crowd of eager concertgoers. From the very beginning, "Michigan Left" roused crowd chants and dancing uncharacteristic of a rock show.
After a volley of tracks from Michigan Left, Arkells dug into some of their established hits. "The Ballad of Hugo Chavez" turned into a surprising display of control, as the band turned the rather brief song into an extended celebration of its chorus through an extended coda. The success continued into a rendition of their latest single "Kiss Cam," which led to a celebration of Southern Ontario pride. From making a reference to the gruelling drive up Highway 35 to commenting on a local restaurant's cuisine, the Arkells romanticized just like the locals.
Closing out the encore with fan favourite "John Lennon" appeared to be a fantastic idea. Getting the crowd to scream the lyrics "Head on the wall, and my piss hardly makes the stall" was a more entertaining idea. Yet no Arkells show is complete without an offbeat cover. The group decided to treat the crowd to a rendition of "You Make My Dreams Come True" by Hall & Oates to close the night. The nearly awkward reworking of the track embodied Arkells' true appeal. By the very nature of their earnest talent, Arkells can turn anything into a relatable and rousing nugget of rock glory.