Arkells w/ Frank Turner @ BMO Centre

Arkells w/ Frank Turner
BMO Centre
Calgary, AB
February 4, 2017

Photos courtesy of Nicki Chang-Powless

We tried to arrive early to get to will-call and get our passes but chose to park on the north side of the BMO Centre since the tickets gave no indication of where the show was in this very large space and Murphy ’s Law hit.  We got to the parking gate just in time to be told there was no more room, but fortune shone and the parking staff open a nearby space so we were parked within a few more minutes, but we were on the wrong side of the building and the indoor space was not available to keep us warm, so a cold walk ensued.  Fortunately the doors were wide open on the south side and what little line up existed was indoors, quick, and painless.  The organizers were kind to those of us that parked on the north side at the end of the show and opened the north side to exit, but it looked like the people parked on the south side had no choice but to make the same cold trek we had made prior. 

Once through the very mild security, the room looked like a big square white box with a stage in the middle of the wall opposite the entrance, some makeshift bars set up along the wall in front of the entrance and one food vendor open on the wall directly opposite the stage.  Six pillars across the centre of the space were draped in cloth and the roof was open above the fans, lights, and HVAC.  Whatever it was that made the room work, the acoustics and sound for the show was beautiful.  Vocals were just above the music; the bass boomed just enough to let you feel it without feeling like you were going to be knocked over; the music was balanced to sound studio perfection.  Congrats to the sound crew – amazing job!

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls hit the stage right on time and came out strong with a tune called “I Still Believe.”  Honestly, I don’t know this band or their songs, but I liked them right away as did my small entourage (2 teenage boys that call me Mom).  Mr. Turner bounced and jumped and sang full voice through all 8 songs.  This band and frontman are dynamic.  The third tune, “Won’t Grow Up,” stood out as the song I could hear playing over and over on the radio, although a quick search on YouTube found much milder versions of their songs.  These live versions grabbed the audience and had us all bouncing and jumping to varying degrees (my jumping days are likely over unless I get some bionic knees – do people even know what that is anymore or did I just date myself?)  Tunes like “Recovery” and their closer “Four Simple Words” have taken this band out of the British Pubs they likely started in and brought them across the pond to tour in front of what I suspect has and will be lots of very appreciative audiences including the one they just played in front of in Calgary.  Another band to watch and keep your eyes open for.  These guys were worth the price of the ticket on their own.

A quick stage change over brought the Arkells out with very little pomp & circumstance or even an announcement.  Poof, they just started playing “A Little Rain” and the audience was singing along instantly.   Both these bands record much lighter music than they play live; the live music is much more vibrant and forceful.   The energy on stage was enthusiastic and the audience returned it.  The stories and political speeches were a little much for my taste and maybe it’s my age, but I find it hard to take Max Kerman terribly seriously as he tells the audience to Tweet and Instagram for change.  His voice is sincere but typing seems naïve.  The music didn’t miss the mark regardless.  Songs like “The Boss is Coming,” “Passenger Seat,” “Never Thought This Would Happen,” “And Then Some,” “My Heart’s Always Yours,” play in the studio like pop but live on stage they are rock n roll songs with energy and power.  The Arkells invited Frank back on stage to sing a few Springsteen tunes and the keyboard player pulled off a smoking solo.  There was a ton of talent on that stage.  Their 20 or so song set ended with “Private School” and the 3 song encore ended the night with the current radio single “Leather Jacket.”  Max stated a few times that this show was the largest audience they’d ever played in front of and while the room wasn’t sold out, it had a nice size crowd in it.  I felt bad when he finally decided to take a photo of the crowd and I looked around to see that the crowd had diminished slightly before the show was over, but the audience that was left by the very end was still bouncing and jumping and enjoying themselves and isn’t that what live music is all about.

Arkells Setlist:
A Little Rain (A Song For Pete)
Come to Light
Michigan Left
John Lennon
Hung Up
Passenger Seat
Never Thought That This Would Happen
And Then Some
Oh, the Boss Is Coming!
Pullin’ Punches
Dancing in the Dark / Born To Run
Drake’s Dad
Agent Zero
My Heart’s Always Yours
Book Club
On Paper
Dirty Blonde
Private School
Cynical Bastards
Leather Jacket

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