Photographs by Sarah Rix.
Just like when a loved one makes their return home, Toronto embraced the Arkells with the same adulation, selling out The Music Hall three nights in a row. This is the account from the first day of the homecoming.
‘Eff the enemies, keep your friends closer’ seemed to be theme of the evening. Old pal Adam Baldwin was full of humorous nostalgic banter from the early touring days with the buds from Hamilton, as a guitarist with Matt Mays. All plaid and fully bearded, Baldwin was adorably frightened playing without his band. Yet, the early birds cheered on, as the son of Dartmouth ended his short set with ‘Love you with my eyes closed’.
‘No shortage of energy’. That could sum up the X-Ambassadors. The Ithaca based foursome stormed the ground running. Frontman Sam Harris, unpretentiously, was proving his formidable talent. Other than the unrelenting vigor, Harris wowed the packed house with sax play, and equally stunning vocals, giving a larger-than-life feel to ‘We could be Giants’. The brilliant keyboard play from Casey Harris played second fiddle to his ‘no inhibition / all joy’ policy. Pardon the cliché, but he was lost in the music. The looping sax intro during the new song ‘Naked’ outshined existing hit singles like ‘Unconsolable’ and ‘Jungle’. That’s a good problem to have.
Leading men of bands often have shticks to stand out. Ozzie bit off bat’s head. Chad Kroger had Jesus hair. Max Kerman has unpretentious charisma. His onstage persona has the optimal balance of abandonment and affability. The camaraderie of Kerman and the boys extended to the sold out venue. Blasting the night off with ‘Fake Money’, the band from down the QEW had no downtime in mind. “We have a lot songs to go through’, said Kerman, to the bellowing roars of 1500 plus strong. The roars were relentless. Playing from the catalogue of 3 stellar albums, the sing-alongs never stopped, be it the oldies ‘Deadlines’, ‘Oh! The Boss’ or non-single tracks like ‘Systematic’ and ‘Leather Jacket’ to name a few. The show took a heartwarming turn, as Kerman invited old friend Christina on stage, followed soon by a surprise proposal from her fiancé. All the awws aside, the moment exemplified the familial tone of the evening.
The fellas will be spending December in Europe, returning to this side of the Atlantic early 2015. Odds are the next homecoming will be in a bigger setting.