It was a Saturday night in a world of possibilities as Arkells took the stage last night (Aug. 14) at Toronto’s Budweiser Stage for their second of three shows dubbed the “Arkells Long Weekend.”
In one of their first shows in over 500 days, the Hamilton-based band brought along an optimistic outlook that everyone in the capacity crowd yearned for. Kicking off with “Years in the Making,” it gave the crowd a united sense of catharsis.
“I can’t believe what I’m looking at right now,” exclaimed frontman Max Kerman. It indeed felt surreal seeing a capacity show for the first time in a year and a half. While Toronto music fans relied on concert livestreams, and drive-in concerts during the darkest days of the pandemic, it didn’t feel the same. They felt inauthentic, and there wasn’t that sense of connection you get when you’re front row at a sold-out show. Kerman and co. made a point to make everyone feel at ease, and reminded fans that one of the best ways to beat covid was to “shake your ass.”
From their earlier indie rock-inspired tracks like “John Lennon” to their new more Motown-influenced songs like “People’s Champ,” Arkells wear their influences on their sleeve and it’s always incredible to see live.
Ever the band to bust out spot-on covers, the set had an array of musical homages to the likes of The Beatles with a snippet of “Here Comes The Sun” during the mid-set intro to “Quitting You,” a spirited cover of Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” that preluded “Whistleblower,” and a rousing interpretation of ABBA’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” during the encore.
As far as COVID-19 protocols went, it was surprisingly lax. There were no temperature checks, or questions about a fan’s vaccination status, or what, if any, symptoms someone has or recently had. And while some seats were empty to promote social distancing, and organizers reminded fans that they must wear a mask unless eating or drinking, that order was accepted by some and ignored by others. Considering that this concert series may set the tone for further concerts in the fall, hopefully the entry requirements will improve going forward.
With all of the time spent indoors, the sacrifices made, the setbacks, the political indecision, and the anti-vax rhetoric, it’s a miracle that we’re enjoying full-scale live concerts right now. Arkells are universally loved, and for good reason. They’re authentic, and pull no punches during live shows. They enthusiastically rep their Hamilton hometown and constantly give back to a fanbase that has been there since day one. They were the best choice to kick off the much-anticipated “almost post-covid” concert season, and here’s hoping it’s only the start of the desperately needed resurgence of the global music industry where we can finally knock on the door of normalcy.
1. Years in the Making
2. Knocking at the Door
3. Michigan Left
4. John Lennon
5. Eyes on the Prize
6. People’s Champ
7. One Thing I Know
8. Quitting You (“Here Comes the Sun” intro)
9. Come to Light
10. Kiss Cam
11. All Roads
12. Hand Me Downs
13. And Then Some
16. Saturday Night
17. Private School (with Haviah Mighty)
18. Whistleblower (“Land of 1000 Dances” intro)
19. You Can Get It
20. My Heart’s Always Yours
21. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (ABBA cover)
22. Leather Jacket