“Who needs a doctor’s note right now? Anyone coming to an Arkells show should know they have to take the next day off!” laughed Max Kerman. He had rapidly made his way up to the balcony mid-song, signing excuse letters on a notepad and handing them out to their amused fans. Convincing the nine-to-fivers to skip work the next morning and providing documentation wasn’t even the best thing about Arkells’ Irving Plaza performance, but it definitely took the excitement up a notch – an impressive feat, since the whole night had been a blast.
A band that kicks the night off with the intro to Nirvana’s “Aneurysm” is a band that’s ready to rock. The Greeting Committee’s opening set was memorable for many good-vibe-infused reasons, but one big one was Addie Sartino’s ability to make the audience obey her wishes. Her vocals and guitar work as strong as her presence, she got their hands in the air; she got the full venue down on the floor; she got everyone jumping; she got them singing specific lines; she got them clapping in time; she got them to fall silent – sometimes all in the same song. Well backed by her talented bandmates, including Brandon Yangmi, Austin Fraser, and the sax-savvy Pierce Turcotte, their radiant and upbeat set showed off songs from their debut album, last year’s This Is It, as well as a nice cover of MGMT’s “Kids.” Before thanking Arkells for having them out on this tour, Sartino also thanked her vocal teacher, Randy, from their home base of Kansas City, Missouri, who had flown out to surprise them and was visibly proud.
Taking the stage at 9:10pm, Arkells kicked off their hit-filled setlist with the ultra-catchy “Relentless” from their latest album, 2018’s Rally Cry. Frontman Max Kerman joked about the weeknight show before they transformed it into a weekend bash. “We rolled into New York City today and got some bad news: it’s a Tuesday,” Kerman lamented playfully, persuading Irving Plaza to “make it feel like a Saturday night.” Even amid the big cheer he’d just triggered, Kerman showed how much they care about everyone’s well-being. “You gotta look after each other, okay? If someone needs a drink, buy them a drink. If someone’s had too much to drink, make sure they get home safely tonight.” Often commanding the tightly-packed room’s attention from atop a glowing platform – or off the stage and right in front of their faces – he was a force in the classic Manhattan venue, his vocals adding extra power to the punch of Arkells’ infectious music.
When they’re owning a stage, it’s constantly evident why Arkells – comprised of Max Kerman, Mike DeAngelis, Nick Dika, Tim Oxford, Anthony Carone – are so adored. Embellishing their sound with warm trumpet and saxophone, the Canadian alt-rockers brought such enthusiasm and musical synergy to each song, you could just feel they were happy to be in the big apple and really making the most of it. “Irving Plaza, tonight, you’re the church of rock & roll,” Kerman announced, grinning at the tangled mass of singing fans. “A non-denominational choir!” He had other ways of encouraging us too. “When I count to five, I need everyone here at Irving Plaza to hit the fucking ceiling,” he urged, stirring up screams that made his request feel borderline scary. “Here we go!” And when he counted to five, things got extra loud and lively. With an encore that included their fresh take on ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and their own “My Heart’s Always Yours,” Arkells’ NYC show clearly pleased the crowd, packaged as nicely as a crisp letter sealed with wax.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley