Arkells Play Two Sold Out Shows at Lee's Palace, Toronto (Photos and Review)
02-Dec-2009 12:00 am
Contributed by: pete
The Arkells have had a pretty massive 2009 that was induced by the release of their debut full-length album, Jackson Square, almost exactly a year ago. With a combination of radio airplay, word of mouth, and hard work, they've grown their fan base significantly over the year. Back in Southern Ontario for the holiday season, they played two sold out shows back-to-back at Lee's Palace.
By my count, this is the sixteenth time I've been out to photograph Arkells, yet when Mike Bax (founder of the excellent Fazer Magazine) asked me "How many times have you shot them now?" my answer was simply, "Still not enough." Having seen them perform as many times as I have, you might think I've become slightly numb to their performance, but it just doesn't seem to work that way. Every time I think I know what to expect, they somehow manage to blow away my expectations. Now that I'm thinking back, I will never forget how much fun I had at their unannounced set at the Rivoli during CMW '09.
This was a show truly designed for the fans because the set list (if I include the encore) contained every song from Jackson Square. On top of that, they threw in two new songs, Where Are You Going? and Country Boy. And just when we thought it was all over, the band returned for a second encore and invited the members of both Sweet Thing and The Novaks on stage to help them play out a cover of Dancing In The Dark (originally by Bruce Springsteen). If it wasn't already obvious, watching them play that song made it clear that the band was having as good a time on stage as we were all having in the audience.
There's something about the stage at Lee's Palace that is conducive to good band/audience interaction. It might be the high stage that allows the band to see the entire room and so when the level of energy in the crowd is high, all that energy makes it back to the stage, unblocked by fans at the front. The audience fed off the band, and in response, the band fed off the audience. It's amazing to me that given the number of times I have seen Arkells perform, I left this show thinking, once again: That was the best show I've seen them play.
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Media: Pullin' Punches (video), The Ballad of Hugo Chavez (video)
I saw Sweet Thing in concert once before and I remembered liking their visual stage show and pop-rock sound. For this show, I arrived early enough to run into Mike DeAngelis (guitar, Arkells) speaking to Nick Rose (guitar, Sweet Thing). While chatting with them, I realized that when I saw Sweet Thing in 2007, it was the Arkells that opened the show that night. I'm told Sweet Thing will be releasing a full-length album sometime soon; Mike said he's heard the album and it's excellent. I was really impressed how many people were there to see Sweet Thing. Quite often for the first opening band, I have all the space I could possible need to photograph the band, but that was not true for their set. Owen Carrier (vocals) is a natural front-man whose on-stage manoeuvres emphasize his excellent vocals, and along with good band member interaction and fun songs, it was a compelling start to a great night.
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Slotted between Sweet Thing and the Arkells were The Novaks, a band out of St. John's that has been on tour with the Arkells for the past month. They play hard rock that shares some musical attributes with C'Mon, and could easily been influenced by early Nirvana - one song in particular reminded me of School from Nirvana's debut album Bleach. As if to prove that I was on the right mental path, they covered the Nirvana song Breed before closing the set with their own Destroyer. I like a bit of three-piece hard rock every now and then, and there were a couple of songs in the set that agreed with that part of my musical taste.
Info: The Novaks | Connect: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter