Arkells @ Venue -- 11/19/09

I am still positive that I will never take Venue's name seriously. But silly, pretentious name aside, they do host some incredible bands. Like Hamilton, Ontario's Arkells who were there last night.

The Novaks opened the night. They were... I don't want to say bad, because they were not. But a little boring... bland and generic. A lot of their songs sounded the same or similar. Even the slower ones just seemed like they changed the tempo. Again, they were by no means horrible; I've seen worse. Much worse. But just not very memorable.

This was the fourth time seeing Arkells, but only second time headlining, and it was probably the best and most intense of all the shows thus far. Holy crap, do these guys have an insane amount of energy. The show started a little iffy, by no fault of Arkells, as the sound was a little... terrible. A lot of it was washed out and distorted. I don't know if it was just where we were sitting or what, but it really took me out of the first few songs. Eventually it was fixed (or I just learned to listen past it) and I got to really enjoy the show. They played just about every song from their debut album, Jackson Square, with a few other surprises. There was a new song which was called Where Are You Going? I think. I could sort of see the setlist from where I was and that's what it looked like it said. It was a pretty good song. Mid way through the set they did one of my favourite things; broke out a cover song. Their choice? Based on a bar near their hometown which plays a lot of old, classic music, they chose Smokey Robinson and The Miracles' The Tears of a Clown. It was a little rock-ier, a little Arkells-ier if you will, than the original, but a pretty damn good interpretation.
The last part of the set was just a string of great songs and performances. When they got to Oh, The Boss is Coming, the crowd went apeshit. Singing along with most of it, Arkells even threw in that call & reply with the breakdown of the song. The band may still be relatively new -- I think they've been together for three years? -- but damn, do they know how to work a crowd. No Champagne Socialist is always an incredible song to hear live. They ended the main set with my favourite song of theirs, John Lennon. Again, everyone was singing along to the chorus, and there was a really cool point where they segued into a little bit of Eleanor Rigby -- just the "Ah, look at all the lonely people" -- which, again, everyone sang along to.
They came out pretty quickly after for the "encore" and kept the sing along theme going, getting everyone to sing the first verse of Amazing Grace with them, which turned into Deadlines. After that they ended the show with yet another cover, this time of Dancing in the Dark. Again, a pretty awesome variation on the song, and there has got to be some pun value in Arkells covering Bruce Springstein. (As my friend put it: "Oh, The Boss is Covered") The only thing the cover lacked was Max pulling a girl out from the front of the crowd to dance with him, Courtney Cox-style.

Random covers, insane energy, great stage show and, above all else, fantastic music. What else could one ask for in a show?

Blueprints, The Ballad of Hugo Chavez, Tragic Flaw, Abigail, Heart of the City, I'm Not The Sun, Where Are You Going? (??), Pulling Punches, The Tears of a Clown (Smokey Robinson and The Miracles cover), Oh The Boss is Coming, No Champagne Socialist, John Lennon.
(encore) Deadlines, Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springstein cover)