Arkells join rock's greatest with sold out Hamilton arena show

Bruce Springsteen. Shania Twain. The Who. U2. These are the kinds of acts that have played FirstOntario Centre through the years. Tonight, Hamilton’s Arkells will add themselves to that esteemed company.

They've come a long way from the McMaster University battle of the bands

Bruce Springsteen. Shania Twain. The Who. U2. These are the kinds of acts that have played FirstOntario Centre through the years.

Tonight, Hamilton's Arkells will add themselves to that esteemed company (and they'll be doing it while calling the old barn Copps Coliseum, no doubt).

The show sold out weeks ago, so a full house is expected. Now, that's with a seating configuration of about 10,000, which is a dip from Springsteen's 18,000 — but there's absolutely no shame in coming in second place to the Boss.

This is the first arena headlining show that the band has ever done, and makes them one of the only local bands to ever play in the home of the Bulldogs. The excitement in Hamilton is palpable — and it's fitting for one of the city's best musical success stories.

"One of the best things about being in a band is experiencing new things. Throughout our history as a band, we've been very lucky to have a steady steam of 'good lord!' moments we could've never dreamed of," said frontman Max Kerman.

"The most gratifying part of the job is seeing and hearing people sing your songs back at you. Tonight I'll have the best seat in the house to witness it all."

The band did it honestly — slugging it out on the road for years, and developing a reputation as one of Canada's best live acts. The shows started small, moving from local stalwart venues like the Casbah, to drawing the biggest crowd Hamilton's Supercrawl has ever seen.

But this is another level. Sure, their Supercrawl set was one of the all-time best at the festival, and they've made crowds jump in front of those kinds of festival stages all over in recent years.

Yet doing it on your own, and plastering your name to the top of an arena show bill and selling it out — that's another thing altogether. (Though the band will get some help from beloved British folk-punk act Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, with whom they have become very close.)

For anyone who has followed the band's trajectory, this success is not a surprise. Michigan Left improved on Jackson Square's debut, and High Noon was a definite high point, going gold in Canada with 40,000 albums sold. (Leather Jacket, one of that album's best, still manages to make the few who might still be sitting jump out of their seats at live shows).

You'd be hard pressed to listen to the radio in Southern Ontario lately and not hear My Heart's Always Yours, from the band's latest, Morning Report.

Though many Hamilton fans likely made the trek down the 403 to see one of the band's two sold out shows at Toronto's iconic Massey Hall last November, the band is still promising some new surprises tonight.

But let's hope they keep the Bruce Springsteen medley they've been trotting out onstage during this tour with Frank Turner, though. It would only be fitting tonight, playing in the same spot Springsteen did.



Adam Carter


Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.