Last week Arkells came through Chicago looking for the “People’s Champ” on their Rally Cry Tour supporting their latest record of the same name. This was my fifth time catching them in the last three years, and they keep getting better every time. At this point they’re basically playing arena shows in small clubs, just waiting for the booking agents to catch up to what all of their fans have already figured out. I’ve noticed over the course of the shows I’ve seen that Arkells fan base is crazy dedicated, which is why I’m kind of shocked that they played Bottom Lounge again and not a bigger venue. Selfishly, I’m happy that they’re still playing these places in the States (they’ve ascended to a higher level in their native Canada), but they really should be moving up so catch them now before you’re paying $100+ to see them headline a huge sports venue.
Rally Cry finds the band at their most upbeat and focused. Each track is an anthem for the disaffected youth of the world to rise up and stand for their beliefs. They’ve taken the best of artists like Springsteen and The Killers and blended it into a kind of blue collar dance rock that spreads smiles like an epidemic. I was glad to hear them lean into the more political stuff from the album, calling out the Trump administration on their cheating and lying throughout the night. They even tied it back to “Private School” from their last album which came out before the 2016 election.
The stage set up has changed significantly from the first time I saw Arkells play. They bring their own lighting and for a while they’ve had an awesome “ARKELLS Touring Band” sign with them. I was introduced to their music in the dark of SubT, where I could barely make out the lead singer’s face because he didn’t always stand near the front of the stage. Now Max has a riser to stand on when he really wants to add emphasis to what he’s doing. Everything is bigger and better as the group has become more popular.
The set covered most of the band’s discography. I was shocked at their restraint with the new material, only playing 5 songs from Rally Cry and satisfying fans cravings for some of the older tunes. Before the tour they announced a hotline for people to request their favorite deep cut-Max picked up an old rotary phone to check the pick and we got “And Then Some,” which I’m pretty sure would’ve been played anyway. Great song, though.
These guys put on one of the most fun shows you could hope to see. They do a really good job of keeping the audience engaged and rocking. They don’t really do any slow songs during this run, so be prepared to dance for a full 90 minutes. Rally Cry has a bit of a disco feel to it, and they pushed that vibe even further by doing an encore of “Dancing Queen” accompanied by opener The Greeting Committee.
There are a few dates left on this leg of their tour and we were assured that they would be hitting the road again this summer. I assume they’ll be playing a lot of festivals, so get out and see them if you can. Hit their website to check out tour dates and all that jazz.