A Taste of Alberta Lands on Delancey St.November 14th, 2014
Rural Alberta Advantage – The Bowery Ballroom – November 13, 2014
Rural Alberta Advantage singer Nils Edenloff never makes anything look easy. The veins in his neck bulge as he reaches for his upper register, a frequent move in the arrangements of his band’s emotive acoustic pop. Often as early as a melody’s second or third note, Edenloff’s raspy tenor nears the top of his range, rattling away like a charming, reliable, old bucket-of-bolts car, possessing a mixture of utility and worn grace. The overwhelming sense of watching him perform his craft, a painful high-wire act, is that he may well be damaging himself for your benefit. If it isn’t guilt you’re feeling, it’s something like indebtedness. So it was theatrically painful pathos—along with their most bombastic studio album to date, Mended with Gold—that the Rural Alberta Advantage brought to The Bowery Ballroom on a blustery Thursday evening.
The RAA opened with “Stamp,” “Muscle Relaxants” and “Don’t Haunt This Place,” all songs from their first two records. The opening sequence reminded a New York City audience that hadn’t seen the band since January that their catalog runs deeper than just a new LP. Paul Banwatt, one of the best-period-drummers-period-in-rock-music-period, wailed away on the same beat-up drum kit he’s used for years. The My Old Kentucky Blog sticker on the side of one of his tom drums dates the kit back to an era when music blogs helped rocket the band out of the open-stage night in Toronto where Edenloff and Banwatt first met. The band, too, felt older, more methodical, moving with deliberate if not frenetic pacing. The riffs exploding from Banwatt’s drums supported Edenloff’s raspy vocal when the band switched to material from Mended with Gold, pounding out lead track “Our Love…,” the snare hits arriving with the same inhuman effort as the melody.
Edenloff reminded fans that although the band is from Toronto that he was originally from Alberta and that many of the songs regarded his native province. With the always delightful Amy Cole—backstage sticker affixed to her bare right arm—leaning on the backing vocals, the RAA played “Runners in the Night” and “Vulcan, AB.” On the latter, Edenloff sang into a modified telephone-receiver microphone. It was a call from far away, a Canadian prairie hymn shot through with human suffering and effort. Outside, the first snow of the season was rumored to be only hours away from dusting Delancey St., a bit of the frontier carried in a gravelly vocal, an old drum kit and Cole’s Swiss Army ebullience. It was anything but easy. —Geoff Nelson | twitter.com/32feet