Live Review: Arkells - Hare & Hounds, Birmingham 28/11/2018
A long way from their Hamilton hometown in Ontario, Canada, Arkells played for the first time in Birmingham. Previously on tour with Frank Turner, the Canadians played down town from Birmingham at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath. It’s rather a change for Arkells, who are gearing up for a packed arena tour in Canada early next year with Lord Huron.
On a rather damp and miserable night, Arkells wasted no time in employing some of their heavy hitters. Their cinematic opener ‘Relentless’ set the tone, lead man Max Kerman sang out, “We got gas in the tank to go all night”. And sure enough, they did for the next 100 minutes, with a set covering their expansive back collection of 5 albums. Song two was one of their most recognisable songs, ‘Leather Jacket’. A boisterous single that really made the crowd lively.
A big highlight was ‘People’s Champ’, off their latest record ‘Rally Cry’. It is an unbashedly, unapologetically an attack on Donald Trump and leaders not acting in the best interests of the people they’re serving. There was no second guessing who the people’s champ was on this night. Then in complete contrast only a few songs later, they played acoustically, coming under the revolving glitter ball in the centre of the room. Surrounded by the crowd, playing ‘And Then Some’, they brought real intimacy and emotion to their performance. It was a moment, after they’d played ‘Moment’, to savour. Arkells created a campfire atmosphere, the crowd more like friends joining in the chorus. A safe, feel-good motive was created and maintained throughout, which was great to see.
Soon came ‘11:11’, a joyous and hopeful, romantic love song. The vocals here we’re very impressive. The pulsating lights and electric atmosphere made for another impressive showpiece by the Hamilton boys with the dance friendly ‘Saturday Night’. After many refences to the song, teasing it’s Saturday not Wednesday, the upbeat jazzy nuber did not disappoint. Even though Max encouraged it, the crowd needed no invitation for a party on a “Saturday night in a world of possibilities”. The crowd found themselves clapping, dancing, singing at almost every possibility.
‘Book Club’ was also played completely acoustic on stage, Max standing on the edge of the stage with no microphone, orchestrating the fans to join in. Again, they used the space to their advantage and delivered a phenomenal night of entertainment. Just as the night seemed to be drawing to a close, the band invited a fan on stage to play guitar on ‘Private School’. The Hare and Hounds responded wonderfully, urging the young lady on. The risks were obvious, but instead it was magical.
Another touch of class and appreciation for their brilliant and glittering support act, Felix Hagan & The Family, was when they brought them on stage for a karaoke rendition of ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA. The whole crowd bellowed back the infamous lyrics in a euphoric celebration. Finishing with ‘My Heart’, Arkells left Birmingham leaving a room full of overjoyed fans who knew they’d been treated to a particularly special performance. Roll on the 2019 tour!
Words and Photography by Matthew Swallow