A Saturday Night With Matt Mays and The Arkells in London, ON

Arkells

Continuing our series of the ‘Thanksgiving Weekend 3 concerts in 3 nights,’ we found ourselves in London, ON for the third consecutive evening of live music.  And in contrast to the intimate shows spent with both Emm Gryner and The Fortunate Ones, this time around we were ready to rock with thousands of others at Budweiser Gardens for a true ‘loud and proud’ rock show.  Headlining this main event would be the Hamilton, ON based rock group The Arkells, and would also feature Matt Mays in support.  Making this event just a little more special was the fact that this would be the final 2017 Canadian show for the Arkells, and you knew that it would go out with a bang.  With tickets purchased on the day that they were first made available, Team GDW had been eagerly waiting for this one to roll around.

With a huge banner at the rear of the stage featuring his new album cover, and both a full band and stage set-up, it was easy to believe that Matt Mays was the headlining act here.  For some, I’m sure there were flashbacks to 2008, when a (then) relatively unknown Arkells would fulfill the opening duties for Matt Mays & El Torpedo.  Taking to the stage with his band (guitar (x2), bass, keyboards and drums), Matt offered up much more than is to be expected from an opening act.  Of course, as a headliner and stadium-filler in his own right, this scaled down slot allowed Matt the opportunity to share some of his brand new material from “Once Upon a Hell of a Time.”  And naturally a musician of Matt’s caliber did not disappoint, with an eight-track set list that equally divided cuts from the new release and some old favorites too.

Opening the show with a new track “NYC Girls,” Matt established an upbeat tempo from the offset.  Kicking off the third track with the popular “Take It On Faith” from his “Coyote” album, the audience were now fully engaged.  Riding with this positive reaction, the band returned to the new release, performing both “Station Out Of Range” and the recent radio hit, “Faint Of Heart.”  Fans of the older material would be rewarded with an outstanding rendition of “Cocaine Cowgirl” (complete with a lengthy guitar solo to close out the song) and the final number, the always popular “Terminal Romance.”  This forty minute set may have felt like twenty minutes to some, and this high-energy performance definitely left us craving much more from Matt Mays – hopefully we can catch up with him again soon on his own tour.

Matt Mays Set List:

  1. NYC Girls
  2. Ola Volo (unconfirmed)
  3. Take It On Faith
  4. Station Out Of Range
  5. Faint Of Heart
  6. On The Hood
  7. Cocaine Cowgirl
  8. Terminal Romance

 

Following a pretty fast reconfiguration of the stage, The Arkells entered the arena to an incredibly loud reception from a very full Budweiser Gardens crowd.  And naturally, lead vocalist Max Kerman and his bandmates would knock this show out of the park (or rink, in this case) with a twenty track set list that would include many of their hits from across their back catalog of music.  Of course, the most recent “Morning Report” and “High Noon” albums would be heavily represented, contributing twelve of the twenty tracks.  Whether new to this band or a long-time fan, everybody would be treated to a fantastic rock-show experience courtesy of the musicians on stage (the 3 piece horns section was a wonderful addition, giving the tracks some extra depth at times).

With an unexpected (but not unwelcome) opening verse from “Amazing Grace” to commence the show, the band would quickly and seamlessly shift into “Making Due” from the current album.  Notable older favorites would be incorporated into the early part of the show, however, with both “Michigan Left” and “11:11” being knocked out early to further satisfy their legions of fans. Crowd reactions would be raised furthermore once the well-known opening riffs of “Private School” blasted from the sound system.  A guest guitarist from the crowd would be invited to join the band on-stage midway through this track, and play rhythm for the remainder of the tune (he was even given a small lead part – a monumental moment for the young man, I’m sure).  The Arkells were firing on all cylinders at this point, but much more was in store for this closing night.

Moving from “Private School,” the band shifted to their “Jackson Square” album for “Pullin’ Punches.”  There was nothing out of the ordinary here, until keyboard player Anthony Carone decided to rotate some “Great Balls Of Fire” into his solo spotlight.  And with “Drake’s Dad” up next, Max and his three horns players would surprise many by appearing out in the crowd to perform part of the song.  Having made their way back to the stage, the show continued with a stream of popular hits, including “Leather Jacket,” “Whistleblower,” and “Dirty Blonde.”  Max would spend a little time ‘crowd surfing’ during “A Little Rain,” before returning to the stage and going all out for their final number; the smash hit “My Heart’s Always Yours.”

I have been to many, many concerts, and have experienced loud crowds, but the Budweiser Gardens faithful certainly made a case for being up there with the best of them.  Not willing to call it a night just yet, the audience kept the excitement and intensity levels high, and were naturally rewarded when The Arkells returned for an encore performance.  And what an encore; Max Kerman would stir up a frenzy with an unbelievable cover of The Tragically Hip’s “My Music At Work,” before bringing down the house with the current hit “Knocking At The Door” to wrap up their final Canadian show of the year.

Team GDW had waited a long time to experience The Arkells live.  Having followed their music for several years, and being presented with numerous opportunities to catch them prior to now, dates just never worked out with our schedule and the band quickly became one of those acts that we could never seem to cross paths with.  Even a recent show in Washington DC happened to fall on the wrong night for us, as have a few Philadelphia dates over the last year.  Thankfully, the combination of a US holiday weekend and our plans to be in and around the London, ON area at this time placed ourselves and The Arkells on a wonderful collision course that culminated in an amazing evening of live music.  This band are at their best when on stage, with a strong reputation that precedes them, and after this one night at Budweiser Gardens, I am at a loss to find anything to contradict this.  For those of you in the US who have not yet been fortunate to experience their show, there are a handful of dates left in 2017 – be sure to catch one if they are in a town near you.

Arkells Set List:

  1. Amazing Grace (intro)
  2. Making Due
  3. Come To Light
  4. Michigan Left
  5. Never Thought That This Would Happen
  6. 11:11
  7. Come Back Home
  8. Private School
  9. Pullin’ Punches
  10. Drake’s Dad
  11. Leather Jacket
  12. And Then Some
  13. Book Club
  14. Oh, The Boss Is Coming
  15. Whistleblower
  16. Dirty Blonde
  17. A Little Rain (A Song For Pete)
  18. My Heart’s Always Yours

Encore:

  1. My Music At Work (Tragically Hip Cover)
  2. Knocking At The Door

~ M

Visit Matt Mays’ website.

Visit The Arkells’ website.

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