29.11.18 – Green Door Store, Brighton

Arkells are quickly becoming one of Canada’s best loved rock bands. They could be described as the Huey Lewis and The News of whatever decade this is called. They blend blue-eyed-soul with rock licks and plenty of pop-hooks – so how come they aren’t a household name in the UK? No idea! Their latest tour is to promote their fifth album, Rally Cry, and after a successful support slot with Frank Turner earlier on in the year they must have been confident about their biggest UK tour yet.

Brighton’s Green Door was one of the smaller venues on the tour (all sold out bar Manchester… Oh Manchester) and it must have been a change of scene from playing arenas back home. Felix Hagan and The Family (think Scissor Sisters meets Queen) had more than just warmed up the packed venue; it’s rare to have the majority of the audience singing along word for word to a support act. But the loyal Arkell’s fan club had travelled from far and wide to send off the boys back home, and had already enjoyed the camp delights of Felix and his family on previous outings. A hard act to follow? Not when the Arkells are one of the most charismatic stage acts on the scene. With King Kong choruses like Leather Jacket and Knocking at the Door, alongside Max Kerman‘s every-man likability, the Arkells have more than enough in their arsenal to deliver the goods, and they were on top form for their last UK date of the year.

Kerman spent as much time among the audience as he did next to his band mates. It isn’t everyday that a member of the audience can be so intimate with their favourite singer that they can use their phone to offer a spotlight to enlighten Kerman, as he performed Eyes on the Prize from the back of the crowd. The entire band seemed so relaxed, throwing smiles and in-jokes between each other as they played a set made up of select choices from their latest album and some of their greatest hits. Personal highlights were when the band went off script: Mike (DeAngelis) and Max took their guitars into the centre of the audience to perform an accoustic-ish version of And Then Some and then return to the set list for A Little Rain. Sadly my dance routine didn’t catch on this time, but there is always another gig.

There were a couple of quieter moments when some of their earlier cuts and a few newer album tracks washed over our heads, but this was the fourth time I have seen the band and it trumped the previous shows by the sheer energy of the audience, and the equal love between music fans on and off the stage. The Arkells had spent the last couple of weeks driving up and down the country, but they would have struggled to play a better show. It had it all: wedding proposals, audience members playing guitar on stage, tears, sweat and strangers holding each other arm in arm whilst singing perfectly to My Hearts Always Yours. And an encore with members of Felix Hagan and the Family singing not only one pop classic as per most nights of the tour, but two – ABBA‘s Dancing Queen and Whitney‘s I Wanna Dance With Somebody – was a magnificently-chaotic scene to watch, climaxing with Kerman dragging members of both bands into the crowd to dance and sing with as many people as he could (whilst wearing a feather boa). A perfect end of a night and of their tour. ‘Til next time guys.

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