This Saturday, I attended the first of The Edge’s Jingle Bell Rock concerts, featuring one of my favourite bands, the Arkells. Now I am supposed to write a review of the concert, however I believe I will be reviewing everything except the most important aspect – the band themselves. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I love them. Secondly, they performed magnificently on Saturday night and I could not think of a substantial criticism if I tried.
While the doors opened at 8, the opening band did not actually get on stage until around 9:15. I had fun with my best friend trying to consistently check the time every 10 minutes while a preset playlist was blasted over the sound system. Starting at 8:02, we succeeded until 8:50. After this, some members of the crowd became slightly restless.
Thankfully, We Barbarians made it on stage before any sort of riot broke out. They satisfied the crowd, but did not woo them. It was while they played when I realized how loud the speakers in the sound academy actually were, and why it might not have been the best idea to stand in the second row of the crowd without any ear protection. I had difficulty hearing the guitar over the booming bass and drums, and I think it was this combined with my lack of familiarity with the band that prevented them from winning me over. In between songs they would thank the crowd for applause and occasionally reintroduce themselves. They did not make much of an impression on me, although I did remember the name of one of the songs they played. Chambrai.
Around 10, the main attraction arrived. The Arkells came on stage greeted by cheers from the crowd. They opened with the title track of their latest album, Michigan Left, and myself and many others were immediately singing along. Next was The Ballad of Hugo Chavez, a hit from their first album, which had everyone else singing along. Saxophone was provided by Graham Wright of Tokyo Police Club.
An unusual face stood at the keyboard. Dan Griffin, their original keyboardist, left the band in the spring to go back to school. When I heard this news earlier, I was quite disappointed. Griffin is quite a talented musician with some of his own solo work. You can find his free album, Leave Your Love, here. Their electric piano was was manned Anthony Carone, a fellow in typical hipster glasses whose stage presence I found quite amazing. His whole body grooved as he smashed a fist full of keys and helped out with the backing vocals.
This was the first of many guest appearances. In addition to Graham Wright, Dave Monks joined in on guitar at one point. Nick Rose, Robin Hatch and Taylor Knox helped out with the chorus of Kiss Cam. Country singer and musician Kathleen Edwards, after adding the female vocals in Agent Zero, performed her song Back to Me. Last, but not least, frontman of Born Ruffians Luke Lalonde provided his voice in a Hall & Oates cover (I’m sure you know the one).
The band concluded with an extended version of another hit from their first album, John Lennon, with audience participation in the chorus. Upon the conclusion of the show, I complained about not hearing the song Blueprint. Then I realized this was not a real criticism, as I was only wanting even more of the band than had been provided. Even if they had played every song in their discography, I would wish for them to do it again.
I did suffer some misfortune as a result of something I previously mentioned. Connor and I left the Sound Academy with temporarily damaged hearing. Mine was so bad that he made fun of me for talking with a lisp, which was an apparent result of not being able to hear myself. I woke up Sunday morning with my ears still ringing and spent a lot of Monday trying to see if my left ear was damaged more than my right. They are both fine now; however, next time I go to a concert I will definitely bring ear plugs.