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Arkells – Friday, November 24th

December 1, 2017

What’s your favourite Arkells track?

For me, it tough to choose one, probably easier to choose a favourite from each of the first three albums.

From Jackson Square (2008)? A coin toss between Ballad of Hugo Chavez & John Lennon.

Michigan Left (2011)? Likely Kiss Cam, but Where U Goin & On Paper are right up there.

High Noon (2014)? Seeing as Cynical Bastards name-checks both Burlington & Oakville Ontario, clearly it’s the one for me!

So when I saw their Kingston show last Friday, I was surprised to hear…absolutely none of my favourite tracks.

Which, theoretically, should mean the concert was disappointing.

In spite of this (or, counter-intuitively, Because of this), the concert is now a part of my All Time Top 5.



Fantastic frontman Max Kerman


The last time I saw the Arkells was in 2013, at the same venue, opening for The Tragically Hip.

That night, they were a terrific opener, as the crowd got right into their set.

Or at least, that’s what I thought a crowd being into an Arkells set looked like.

4 years later, the crowd (myself included) was on their collective feet from start to finish.

The 5-piece band was excellent; the 3 horns that joined them on stage every so often were equally terrific.

The lead singer, Max Kerman, was an absolute performer, always seeming to say/do/sing/dance/play guitar in exactly the right quantities at exactly the right times.

He opened the show with 3 “rock show” rules:

  1. You’ve gotta sing
  2. You’ve gotta dance
  3. (looking out at the general admission floor) You’ve gotta take care of each other

Thankfully, it looked like people on the floor adhered to #3, and we definitely did our part in the seats for #1 & #2!


Photos by my friends Devon & Katie


The setlist, courtesy of
(additional comments and excessive exclamation marks are from me)

1. Amazing Grace
2. Making Due
3. Come To Light
4. Michigan Left
5. Never Thought That This Would Happen
6. 11:11 – exceptional!
7. Come Back Home
8. Private School – they brought up a fan from the crowd to play keyboard on the song!
9. Pullin’ Punches / Great Balls of Fire – The crowd (understandably) responds favourably to the Kingston name-check, Max disappears at the end of the song…
10. Drake’s Dad – …and reappears IN the crowd, performing the rest of this tune from the back of the arena!
11. Leather Jacket – the final line, “who the fuck uses a payphone?,” brought the house down!
12. And Then Some
13. Book Club
14. Oh, the Boss Is Coming! (A Hard Day’s Night intro) – nice punching IN/OUT audience callbacks
15. Whistleblower – a stripped down version, really well done
16. Dirty Blonde
17. A Little Rain (A Song For Pete)
18. My Heart’s Always Yours

19. My Music at Work – see Katie’s comment below, a wonderful moment
20. Knocking at the Door – as Bing Crosby said in White Christmas, a slam-bang finish!



The obligatory album breakdown graph



The latest in the ongoing ‘Band T + Daughter(s)’ photo series.
Photo taken by the eldest daughter!


And I’ll leave the final Word(s) to a pair of my fellow Arkells patrons:

“The show was greatly energetic and fun! A highlight for me was the touching tribute to the Tragically Hip, with the Arkells and Matt Mays together on stage singing My Music at Work.” – Katie

“I was impressed by the overall level of energy and how truly captivated the entire audience was! Max Kerman is one dancin’ fool! Loved it!!” – Devon


Verbalize the Positive

Thanks Dan, Devon, Katie (and Arkells) for an outstanding night!

From → Uncategorized

  1. I really wanna get to know the Arkells better. From the videos I’ve seen, Kernan is a phenomenal frontman — glad you seem to agree!

    • He was spectacular!
      I’d highly recommend getting to know them better, or better yet, seeing them live if you get the chance!

      • Perhaps! I have a terrible phobia of crowds which is why I don’t go to many concerts.

      • Understandable – luckily, this crowd seemed like a well behaved bunch at least

  2. Great live family action photo shot from the Stephen living room!
    Awesome you had a great time!
    Nothing beats live performances !

    • Cheers Deke!
      It was a stellar show – I actually ended up at the Trews concert the night before too, so it was an excellent back-to-back!

  3. Great stuff. A sign of a good gig (and band) is when you can enjoy the gig a great deal despite them not playing any of your favourite songs.

    • Thanks J – I remember HMO saying the new tunes can make or break a gig. You know the old hits will be fine, it comes down to if they can engage the audience with the new material.
      We were most definitely engaged!

  4. Arkells FTW! Man, that was a great show you saw! I love how they’ve gone on and really built a dedicated fan base.

    Fair warning, now I’m gonna be THAT guy… years ago we saw them at the Horseshoe in Toronto with about 500 of our closest friends (surely). They were on a bill with Immaculate Machine, the band we were there to see, and the Arkells rocked that small room too! I said to my lovely wife at the time, I would see those guys again anytime! And here they are, all these years later!

    NB: I went back and found my post from March 25, 2008 (!) and here’s the blurb I gave them:

    “First up was a band called The Arkells, hailing from just down the highway in Hamilton, ON. You know, I might be jaded in my old age and after having been to so many shows, but I frankly never expect much from opening acts at gigs like this. It’s usually just some local band we’ll never hear of again, up there rocking out for their friends and having their little moment. But The Arkells really impressed us. They were tight, talented and highly entertaining. Their presence on-stage was of a band well-seasoned, so kudos to them. Their music fell somewhere between the Strokes, the Trews, and the Gin Blossoms, and their drummer hits Really Hard. I like that. A lot. I would listen to them again, no problem.”

    • If you’re saying nice things about the Arkells Aaron, feel free to be that guy anytime!
      I’d say that’s an accurate description of their early sound (and for both of us, being comparable to the Gin Blossoms is a compliment!) – their more recent stuff I’d say incorporates more 80s sounds, like Hall & Oates and Big Country, but still distinctly Arkells.
      And I’m pleased you had the same impression that this was no regular opening band!

      • Haha I meant it more lke “Oh, there’s THAT guy who saw them ages ago in a small club, total hipster” haha. We didn’t even know they were playing, weren’t there to see them at all, and they were really damn good!

        I still need to get a couple of their albums. New Resolutions for 2018!

      • They’re 4 for 4 with albums so far! The third, High noon, is probably my favourite

      • 4 albums?! Man I thought it was three. I only have one here (Michigan Left). I have a lot of catching up to do!

  5. Also, LOVE that pic of you with the kids. That one of them is a total blur is a PERFECT visual representation of what it’s like to be a parent! 🙂

    • Haha, most definitely, it’s never boring!

      • Nope, it never, ever, never is boring, and that’s a fact. By day’s end, when it ought to be our time to unwind because they’re finally asleep, all we wanna do is collapse ourselves!

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