Review: If you want a fun rock ‘n’ roll show, go see the Arkells

Because there currently isn’t a rock band in the world whose shows are more of a party than those of the Canadian five-piece. 

They are probably one of the best kept secret in the UK rock scene but Canadian outfit The Arkells have proven yet again why they are so adored back home. Having toured the UK with Frank Turner in April, and supported the opening night of Turner’s second instalment of Lost Evenings at the Roundhouse just the night before, Max Kerman and his bandmates took over Camden’s Dingwalls.

Support came from theatrical punks Felix Hagan and The Family who are about the most perfect support for the Arkells. With upbeat tracks, all the fun on stage and all the glitter you can handle, this band turns up the heat at Dingwalls and warms up those dancing shoes for the headliner.

If one was to write a guide on how to make your rock shows the most fun possible, the author would very much be describing an Arkells show.

Starting off with last year’s hit single Knocking At The Door, which was played while the Canadian athletes were celebrating at the Korean Olympics and when the band tweeted that they needed to go and play it live for the nation’s Olympians, Air Canada was on board.

Arkells leave no room to breathe as they launch straight into Private School with audience participation in the shape of Eddie on guitar (chapter 1 of the Fun Rock Show rule book – check).

Vocalist Max Kerman continuously refers to the audience as his non-denominational gospel choir and demands for them to warm up their voices ahead of A Little Rain. And as Never Thought That This Would Happen draws to a close, Kerman declares “That’s what a Saturday night sounds like!” and keeps the dance vibe going for recent single People’s Champ. “It was written for a Saturday night like this, Camden. Can we get a 1976 disco going?” he adds.

Chapter 2 in the Fun Rock Show rulebook – tell a good story. And so they do. There’s one about touring the UK with Frank Turner that turns into a keyboard challenge for Anthony Carone as Max asks the crowd to suggest Elton John songs for him to play on the piano (after claiming he could play just about any EJ song). And boy does he ever. It’s three out of three followed by an epic keyboard solo.

You always have to add a bit of interaction with the crowd (Chapter 3) and Drake’s Dad delivers just that as Max takes a walk through the crowd at Dingwalls singing their 2016 hit about meeting Canadian hip-hop star Drake’s father in Nashville. “Each venue has a different vibe, and Dingwalls is fucking perfect for these kind of shows.” Kerman says and is greeted by cheers.

Ain’t no rock show without a good ballad, preferably a love song. And Then Some tells the adorable tale of falling in love with someone no matter their past. Half way through the song, the lights go down low and Max tells us a story about a house party they played where the power got cut at 3am and all they had was their cellphone lighters. And so the venue goes completely dark with only cellphone lights out and the crowd singing the chorus from their happy little hearts – what a beautiful thing to witness.

And as if this wasn’t already checking all the boxes of THE most fun gig ever, Arkells bring out Felix Hagan & The Family for the encore and an unlikely but somehow very fitting cover of Whitney Houston’s 80’s disco anthem I Wanna Dance With Somebody. There is definitely an argument that for those four or five minutes, Dingwalls in Camden is the happiest place in the capital that very moment. Either way, it is a strong contender for the crown.

With My Heart’s Always Yours off of the band’s latest record Morning Report, the Arkells send us off into the night swaying side to side with our neighbors, drunk on happiness thanks to five boys from Hamilton, Ontario. As far as London goes, we certainly can’t wait to do this all over again in November!