Bob Dylan. Joni Mitchell. Neil Young. Limp Bizkit. The list of legendary performers who have graced the stage at West Hollywood’s Troubadour is endless. The history of pop and rock music of the last sixty years is literally soaked into the walls. It’s like those vibrations have never left the building and they lend a resonance to every show that’s followed. All the spirits of The Troubadour must’ve been frenzied Tuesday night as Hamilton, Ontario’s Arkells brought their soulful alt rock to town for a show that at times felt like Rock And Roll Church, or like a chaotic block party, or, as the tour name would suggest, a rally.
Arkells have been on a steady rise for the last 10 years as they’ve refined their exuberant live show. Headlining The Troubadour was preceded by other LA shows over the years opening for Tokyo Police Club, for Lights, and for Frank Turner as well as concerts of their own at The Viper Room and The Roxy and other spots around town. With the buildup to, and release of the band’s fifth album, Rally Cry, they’ve reached a whole new level of precision in their songwriting and performances, while still finding ways to innovate along the way.
Moving from clubs to arenas in Canada and to larger venues for their headline tour in the States they’ve still found time to post billboards with a hotline number to hear their latest song in Buffalo, advertise a phone number in local papers before tour stops to solicit deep cut requests (Which did happen for this Troubadour show), raised money for numerous charities with percentages of ticket sales, and held a full on Arkells Rally in their hometown football stadium complete with rally towels and pennants and all.
Appropriately the Troubadour concert kicked off with “Relentless” from the new album, a good metaphor for their career. With energy exploding off the stage ring-master singer Max Kerman led the band through an extensive set packed with songs from the new album. The strong sing-along quality of the songs meant the crowd was quite vocal the whole way through and took over singing for the band several times throughout the show.
Kerman was frequently up on risers on the corners of the stage helping to get all of the crowd in on the fun. Then he jumped into the crowd, a few times, and even led a conga line through the audience at one point, as well as writing notes to the employers of attendees to explain their absence at work the next day after wearing themselves out. Other song highlights of the night included dancey “People’s Champ”, party time anthem “Saturday Night” (Turning Tuesday night into Saturday night), and inspirational uplifter “Hand Me Downs” with one of the best sing a longs of the night. Things got lighthearted when the matter of keyboardist Anthony Carone’s Keytar came up, and everything stopped for a minute so the whole venue could sing Happy Birthday to guitarist Mike DeAngelis’ wife, Journalist Molly Hayes, in the balcony.
After a two song encore the night was over far too fast and now the wait is on for Arkells’ return. Which might be a little while. I’d bet we’ll probably see them at the El Rey next in a year or so? Unless they come through as an opener again. Which also could involve the El Rey. But this show at the Troubadour was epic and now all those songs have soaked into the walls with all those other legends. Like Billy Joel. And Metallica. And Fiona Apple. And Hall and Oates. You play that Keytar Anthony!
Words and photos by Tim Aarons