Venue was alive last night with the exciting sounds of the Arkells. This quintet of down to earth musicians powered through an explosive performance. Preheating the stage were the eastern Canadian rock trio, The Novaks. With an equally fiery display, this double billing was an ideal pairing. Pounding the crowd with two energetic performances, left everyone in great spirits. As usual the Arkells left the stage and posted men at the merchandise booth; ready to greet fans and sign autographs. The love for music this bands spreads is undeniable; truly they are driven by passion.
Walking in the doors out of the November drizzle, the sounds of The Novaks danced through the air. A three piece classic rock setup, they have a undeniable hook with their lead singer. His screaming blues inspired style leaves a unique touch on every verse. Even during their cover of Breed by Nirvana, he was able to stamp it with his seal. The drummer was electric, blazing his skins to life with pure animalistic drive. Taking his looks and performance style straight out of a 70s rock video; with both stick spin tricks and overly dramatic facial expressions. The bassist has an almost funky kick to his style, which seemed to be forced into a rocking tone. Over all the whole thing pulls together to make them very original. The Novaks are a flickering flame, before long they will be burning it all down. Keep your eyes and ears on this band.
During the small gap between the acts, the floor before the stage flooded with the eager. The house lights adjusted and pivoted, almost seeming to be as eager as the crowd. For the first time this year, a crew member was out on stage prepping the bands instruments. Being the fourth time I have seen them in nine months, this was a sign of growth in the band. They were taking a step up from the entry level of the touring journey. Now they have a crew, or at least now they have someone they can trust enough to prep everything to their liking. Either way, it is great to see them move up the chain.
The lights finally lowered and the screams of the fans erupted from the floor. The five member flew to the stage, appearing from the darkness. Another thing I immediately noticed was the more refined look the group is now sporting. Although they all have a little scruff on their chins and are styling themselves in the usual alt rock fashion; they seemed more polished. No longer did it look like thrift store purchases. This is another avenue they are growing in. Still it was nice to see that although they were more refined, the style was still prevalent.
Max’s vocals were tight through the entire show; pouring his soul into each song. His on stage sporadic movements, are a perfect accompaniment to his style. Gyrating and twitching his legs and convulsing his body while his lyrics spill forth. Its as if he has been possessed by music and is merely a vessel for its transport. Mike has upped the ante with his equally over dramatic style. Each note he plays explodes from his fingers into the strings of his guitar. His body vibrates and he stumbles the stage, drunk off the music which is pouring from his soul. Again almost over powered by its escape. This theme runs the course through the remainder of the group. Dan on keyboards, Nick on Bass and Tim on drums, each one completely overtaken by the music.
Through out the show they displayed their connection with one another. Be it from a united 5 person head bang to a single moment in a song or to the ability they have to completely stumble the stage without mowing each other down. Their on stage performance has grown greatly over this past year. Even the depth of Max’s voice is expanding. He takes the almost pop sound in certain moments and brings it to new light through out the show. They have their roots in Motown, which they referenced last night with their love for Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Diana Ross and The Temptations. They later reiterated this fact by playing a cover of Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson. A passionate tribute, which they definitely made their own.
The complete presentation was a high level, high energy display. Nothing is fakes, or covered up, they play pure and true music, from a place of love and dedication. They left the stages, and retreated to the back room. The audience barely batter an eye, sticking it out in anticipation of the encore. The band surely did return to the stage, rewarding the fans with a 2 song encore. Starting off with a Amazing Grace lead in to Deadlines. Then finishing off with a cover of Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen, which had the crowd enthralled. The band then retreated for the night, promising to return in January for the 2010 Olympics.
Upon exiting the main floor area, the mass mostly parted ways with the venue and headed to their next destination. A small group of devoted fans stuck it out around the merchandise booth. As usual the band came out and signed autographs, shook hands, and kissed babies. Mike was even help hock some of the merchandise. This band has me vote in the concert scene, and my completely support. They are a purist’s band, no frills no gimmicks, just pure expression of music. With the charisma of Max and the wild card style of Mike, they make the perfect dynamic duo on the stage. The rest of the band ties the whole thing together, each one being unique, and committed to the direction of the group. The Arkells are hands down my favorite live act of 2009. They are the missing link of music past and present. Get out there and see them live, you will not be disappointed.
Photographs by Cory Lam