QRO Magazine

The Rural Alberta Advantage

By Alexandra Richardson

The Rural Alberta Advantage

The Canadian band The Rural Alberta Advantage packed it in at Backspace, Portland’s only exclusively all-ages venue, on Friday, December 18th.  There were a lot of young’uns in attendance, a few folks pushing fifty, and plenty of fans in between.  It was a great mix, the kids at the show, especially.  They kept spirits high and energy kicking, even when Nils Edenloff, lead singer, guitarist and sometime keyboardist, occasionally got irritated with some of the more obnoxious audience members’ comments (example: someone requested "Oh Canada"). 

If Edenloff was a wee bit cantankerous, it was only because this was the band’s second-to-last show of a nearly year long tour.  The band didn’t need to fill any awkward between-song gaps, luckily.  They powered through 15 songs in just over an hour.  It was a quick, dirty, and passionate set, and the band members (including Amy Cole on Nils Edenloffbackup vocals, auxiliary percussion, and keyboards, and Paul Banwatt on drums) were maybe relieved when it was over.  The RAA charmed through tough (and true) love.

With only three songs played that do not appear on RAA’s debut LP, Hometowns (QRO review), audience members cheered with recognition of almost every song, and the band members nailed every tune with a precision born only from playing the same songs live for a year.  The set opened with "The Ballad of the RAA".  Edenloff delivered each line with a gruff heart of yearning.  His distinctive singing style is folk-y grumble imbued with a huff of helium.  If this sounds unlistenable-well, sometimes it was.  But it always came off as disarmingly honest.

The Rural Alberta Advantage playing "The Deadroads" live @ Backspace in Portland, OR on December 18th, 2009:

Paul BanwattBanwatt’s drumming was the backbone of the songs.  He executed drum and bass-influenced beats expertly, which didn’t seem like they should work with the Americana (Canadacana?) leanings of Edenloff’s guitar work and the simple four-chord song structures.  Banwatt is also what keeps the songs from straying into formulaic-land.  The RAA’s songs generally go like this: slow start; sudden, then sustained crest; tender, soft breakdown; and either a climatic culmination or a gentle fade-out.  In at least half the songs, Cole added pretty harmonies to Edenloff’s lead duties.  Her understated keyboard lines usually provided the low, graceful, long phrases needed in the rhythm- and bass guitar- absent instro lineup.  A song with all these elements was "Luciana", a crowd favorite with an anthemistic sing-a-long.  "Luciana" was the queen of the set.

"Frank, AB," a song reminiscent of My Morning Jacket (QRO live review), followed "Luciana".  It had a wide-open electronica feel, thanks to Banwatt’s liberal use of hi-hat, Edenloff’s eerie and triumphant chorus "oohs," and Cole’s atmospheric keys.  Amy ColeBoth "Edmonton" and "Four Night Rider" introduced more prominent vocal harmonies between Cole and Edenloff.  Together, they created a power that, inexplicably, made you want to hear Gloria Gaynor’s "I Will Survive".  When Cole sang two lines alone on "In the Summertime," one wanted more of her.  Her voice was the sugar to Edenloff’s salt. 

And salty was Edenloff on a new song called "Tornado".  The RAA’s hook may be their calculated tension and release, but we did not know release until the aptly titled "Tornado".  He said, before launching into it, "We’re gonna try something new and I guarantee it’s gonna shred my voice-but I don’t really care because we only have one more show."  It was fortunate that he didn’t care.  Edenloff’s strangled voice did indeed shred, Banwatt rhythmically ‘brought it’ with his kit, and, "Cole’s xylophone was the icing on this remorseful shit-cake."  And by shit, meant gonzo, in the best possible way.

The Rural Alberta Advantage

About the author

Alexandra Richardson

Related Articles

Latest Concert Reviews
  • Billy Joel

    More Click here for photos from this show in the QRO Concert Photo Gallery SCENES FROM A BILLY JOEL CONCERT Billy Joel played Madison

    Read more ...
  • UB40

    More Click here for photos from this show in the QRO Concert Photo Gallery My previous encounters with UB40 having been at arenas where,

    Read more ...
Latest Interviews
Ash Moss of Dark Bells

After hearing Dark Bells headline at the Manchester Kraak Gallery, QRO caught up with bass player, Ash Moss, to find out a bit more about the London-based psych-gaze band.  Chatting about musical

Read more ...
  • Those Darlins

    Before playing the Bunk Bar in Portland, OR, Jessi & Nikki Darlin of Those Darlins talked to QRO.  In the conversation, these Darlins talked about their new album, Blur The Line, gender roles

    Read more ...
  • Bear Hands – Q&A

    At the release party/start of tour for their new Distraction (QRO review), Val Lopez and TJ Orscher of Bear Hands sat down with QRO.  In the conversation, the bassist & drummer talked about

    Read more ...
Latest Tracks
  • Woolfy – “City Lights”

    Woolfy, the project led by LA's Simon James, is set to release its debut EP, City Lights, and the title track is a subtropical bonfire jam with an uncommonly airy easiness. If anything else Woolfy

    Read more ...
Popular Articles
Album of the Week
Spotlight On:
Random Articles