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Arkells: Live at Elektrowerkz, London

11/11, London, 7 pm: We stumble into the practically empty Torrens Street, looking for the enigmatic Electrowerkz venue at n°7.

Of course the doors do not have any numbers on them. No Electrowerkz sign either. Are we in the right place, this little back alley opposite Jamie’s Italian (…tempting)? We are – the bassist, Nick, passes us outside, asking how we are doing as if we’ve known each other for years. Awesome! A few people waiting, friendly bouncers and a back alley – the perfect setting for an intimate and vibrant concert.

Inside, fairy lights, pots of flowers hanging on the walls opposite the bar, decaying bicycles waiting in the veranda for someone to pick them up… A vintage place at odds with the new-electronic-hipster-rock-pop-North-American vibe associated with Arkells. Only a waiting room though – at 8.30pm, we are invited into the small space next door where the first act has just begun. We see Nick again selling t-shirts to fans. It really feels like a family business – the band is on all fronts!

Mowbeck makes the first act and gives the audience 30 minutes of pure joy. Excitement levels are high even before Arkells steps into the room with Mowbeck’s fresh tunes and strong stage presence. Exactly what a first act should be like!

Fresh pop sounds and exciting rock rhythms associated with poignant lyrics and a real mastery of pure instrumental moments.

For Arkells, it is their last night in Europe. The Canadian band has travelled the seas of the old continent since April to give the fans of Amsterdam, Cologne, Berlin and Manchester (among others) a taste of their music in live. For this occasion, the London audience gives the band the warmest welcome on stage, an enthusiasm that did not fade once during the whole gig.

A lot of smiles, a few welcome words and the music starts, kicking off with ‘Cynical’ from their latest album, High Noon. ‘Cynical’: a weird choice for a welcome song? Not at all. That is what makes the band so successful: fresh pop sounds and exciting rock rhythms associated with poignant lyrics and a real mastery of pure instrumental moments. The music is easy to appreciate while words “keep dropping, keep spilling”. The band sings about working class and fake money, and makes pop-rock all the more meaningful.

The energy of the band is amazing. Lead singer Max jumps everywhere on the tiny stage space. Drummer, Tim, hits each beat ecstatically. The fingers of Mike, the guitarist, never stop running across the fret board. Nick’s bass brilliantly accompanies every chord. And one of the most impressive part of the show is owned by Anthony and his keyboard, forced by Max to improvise the songs from the top of his head as the singer shouts them. That was before he got his harmonica out for ‘No Champagne Socialist’, ’cause of course he can play. Damn it.

Fans belt out “One more song!”. We get three. A generous band indeed, happy to chat with the fans after the concert; sweat pearling on their forehead, but smiles covering their faces.

Fans sing along at the top of their voices and share their killer moves with the closest person next to them. We are really close to the front, but some people are literally squeezed at the edge of the stage where Max showcases some of his best guitar riffs for their curious eyes. A band close to their public.

The list of tunes goes on – the bouncy ‘Come to Light’, the very appropriate ’11:11′ (on this 11th of November), and punchy numbers from their previous albums Michigan Left  like ‘Kiss Cam’ and the hypnotising ‘Whistleblower’, a personal favourite. Don’t even realise two hours has just gone by. The band thanks everyone with emotion until fans belt out “One more song!”. We get three. A generous band indeed, happy to chat with the fans after the concert; sweat pearling on their forehead, but smiles covering their faces.

That night was all about energy, enjoyment, love for music and friendliness. Just a few dudes making music for other dudes. A band so accessible that when I tell the singer about writing a review of their concert for my university’s newspaper, he says : “Oh cool! Send it to this email and we’ll have a look.” They’re probably reading it right now… Oh my.

 

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