“My Heart’s Always Yours,” the name of Arkells latest single, and a sentiment the packed crowd in Hamilton indicated is truly mutual. On this snowy Friday night, Arkells finally made it home. After months on end of touring, the band returned back to where their hearts lie, and where we have held a place in our hearts for them.
Arkells remind us of home – of the community that is Canada. Even whilst touring other countries, the band brings along the same grace, sincerity, and enthusiasm that some of today’s musicians seem to be missing. This show in particular was extremely special. Not only were they coming home to where it all began for the first time in a while, but Arkells SOLD-OUT what they still like to call “Copps” (FirstOntario Centre). What a milestone. If there’s a way to describe what Hamilton felt like on February 10th 2017, it was as if hometown heroes were back. The streets were buzzing, people were screaming outside the doors, and a large LED sign with the words “Welcome Home ARKELLS” had everyone ecstatic.
There was one very important word tossed around by fans that night: Proud. We are so proud of how far Arkells have come, we feel as if we have been there every step of the way through their success, and in a way, we have. This is a band we can be proud of – they were just like us, and now they have made it. Starting out in their dorm rooms at McMaster University, progressing to bars, clubs, and cafes; onto local festivals, touring and making a name for themselves, until they reached where they are now. Arkells showed nothing but class every step of the way, and have proved that their adoring fans are important to them. This is one of the most interactive bands with a large following that we have seen as of late. The band directly interacts on social media, holds creative contests through which they are constantly reaching out to fans and paying close attention to each entry; visit local university campuses, hold small intimate shows such as playing inside a BC dorm room most recently, or popping up at coffee shops – and now, allowing a fan to take over their Snapchat account at each show on this tour. It’s no surprise that they were one of the most anticipated bands to come back and play their hometown – “Arkellians” as they call their fans – are all a family.
The energy was high at the FirstOntario Centre – lines were wrapped around the building before the doors were open, merch tables were packed, and by the time Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls were onstage, you could feel the enthusiasm from wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling. Once Arkells hit the stage with the single “A Little Rain” off their latest album, Morning Report, the crowd did not hold back – jumping, dancing, and not missing a lyric – and the band was feeling the same vibe, with front-man Max Kerman diving right into the crowd, surfing his away over his fans who would never let him fall.
The set continued with exactly what a hometown crowd would want to hear – with hits such as “The Ballad of Hugo Chavez” from their debut album Jackson Square (which by the way, is located right outside the venue to make it feel even more genuine) – you could almost hear individual people losing their voices from singing along so passionately. Progressing through various hits from both Michigan Left and High Noon, and hitting all their latest successes from Morning Report, the band must have known they have truly left a mark – their fans did not miss a beat.
The great thing about attending a hometown show is that it feels personal. With Kerman stating, “Hamilton, we had you in mind when we wrote this” and proceeding to sing their 2008 hit, “Oh, The Boss Is Coming!” – the crowd went wild. Kerman even made a point of naming all the local bars that he used to play and attend himself, suggesting where the whole arena should go out after the show. Arkells knew exactly when the big moments hit – leaving the singing up to the thousands of people in the audience, playing in the middle of the crowd, slowing it down acoustically, and doing a team crowd-surf with Frank Turner back on stage (who absolutely killed old covers of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and The Temptations “My Girl”).
Kerman was sure to express his gratitude on behalf of the band back to his hometown and loyal fans – affirming that this is their biggest headline show to date, which they originally planned for 2000 attendees, that kept growing to over 10,000. You could feel the love through every single member on stage radiating right through to each heart in the crowd. Finishing off the night slamming down their new sensation, “Private School” and returning for an encore with “Whistleblower”, “Cynical Bastards”, and finally; “Leather Jacket” – a song that had the audience in joyful tears, singing as loud as they could before saying goodbye for now to our Canadian rock stars.
Our hearts are always yours, Arkells, we can’t wait until you come home again.