As the thermostat almost hit 40˚, Arkells returned to London for a sweaty night at ULU.
If you have yet to hear the name Arkells it would probably mean you live outside of Canada and have not seen Frank Turner on tour recently. This year Arkells have been playing arenas back home in North America, and last year had a successful tour with Frank Turner, whose fans have taken the quartet under their wing and followed them around the UK – with as much loyalty as Mr Turner himself! After a UK tour last December, they returned to play a handful of festivals including Kendal Calling and TRNSMT. Whilst taking a break from winning over festival crowds, Arkells slotted in a show at London’s ULU.
The hottest day of the year is probably never the best time to head into a sweaty student union gig. Credit to the attendees to have kept their tops on, as the sweat was dripping long before the headliners took the stage. Sadly a few had gotten carried away with the summer vibes and were escorted from the venue. But aside from these wallies, the show had a perfect audience who had earlier given the support Guise a great reaction, and her roadie (Frank Turner).
As front man Max Kerman bounded onto stage holding a bouquet of roses (he never mentioned why), there were a few of us who were a little disappointed/surprised over the lack of Hawaiian shirts, as a few fans had brought along theirs in tribute. But by the time the band kicked into Hand Me Downs our disappointment soon subsided.
The band were cooking on stage, and literally by the look of the sweat patches. They played a ferocious rendition of Knocking on the Door which for a slighter band would usually be a set closer. Even though the heat was on, the band never seemed jaded and even the quieter Nick Dika (bass) was rarely flat-footed. Arkells played a few deep cuts including a rare outing for John Lennon from their debut album, as well as an acoustic version of Book Club – a needed timeout. Throughout there was the usual fun and games: Max coming into the crowd to start a conga-line during People’s Champ backed by cameo sax-player Nate Holder after a few digs at Boris Johnson, and Anthony Carone being able to unleash his piano skills with a quick version of Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls of Fire.
One of the most unforgettable moments came mid-set when Max announced that a couple wanted to have their first dance at their wedding to And Then Some, and as Arkells can’t make the big day they would reenact the first dance tonight, and made the blushing couple enough space in the middle of the venue to kiss, dance and be overwhelmed as we all sang the ballad word perfect, which climaxed with Max leaving the stage and performing inches away from the loved up couple.
The set was still aimed towards the current album Rally Cry, but they performed many of the old favourites: 11:11, Savannah, and from their official request line, Making Due, ending with Leather Jacket, with Frank Turner and Guise singing side of stage to the closing line “who the fuck uses a payphone?” As the lights faded pre-encore one can find themselves in quite a lonely place: not being Canadian or a Frank Turner fanatic, but as word gets around this will certainly change, and the Frank Turner fans erupted when he and Guise joined Arkells for the encore (a long standing tradition for the support to sing a choice cover with the headliners) of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary, with Holder on sax. Turner showed off some of his ‘interesting’ dance moves and shared lead vocals for the ’60s classic.
Max (rose now behind ear) thanked us for giving our all, regardless of the heat and sweat, and as the show came to an end and I wiped away the sweat from my fellow crowd members, I had to agree that we certainly had; and then we all turned to our neighbour, linked arms and swayed slowly and generally out-of-time to My Hearts Always Yours. Maybe the hottest show of my life, but well worth it.