The Rural Alberta Advantage

Starlite Room, Edmonton AB, October 20

The Rural Alberta AdvantageStarlite Room, Edmonton AB, October 20
Photo: Mack Lamoureux
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It was Rural Alberta Advantage frontman Nils Edenloff's birthday. His band had just come off performing to a sold out crowd in Edmonton a few hours prior and was about to do it all over again. It had all the makings of a triumphant quasi-homecoming for the Toronto group, so it was fitting that they first launched into "The Build" off new album Mended with Gold. The song started light and earnest and quickly built to a fever pitch, partly due to drummer Paul Banwatt's inspired performance on the kit and Amy Cole's work on the keys (not to mention handling bass duties by playing a third keyboard set on the floor using only her feet — an impressive feat, to say the least).

That's how every RAA song somehow goes: they're subtle takes on minimalist folk-rock, beefed up for the larger stages the band are now able to play. While the band tore through their catalogue for the second time that night, and though they weren't exactly pulling a Springsteen and wildly changing up the setlist, they left no album and/or important song untouched. Feeling adventurous, the band played "All We've Ever Known" for the first time, and like other songs from Mended with Gold, it was impressive in a live setting for having a bombastic sheen that doesn't necessarily interfere with how the band present their music, a welcoming sign that they can continue to mature and grow as musicians without disrupting the very thing that makes them important.

That being said, it was tracks from Hometowns and Departing that truly set the crowd ablaze. The Rural Alberta Advantage finished their set with "Drain the Blood," then Edenloff returned for an encore, playing "Two Lovers" before the rest of the band returned for an energized take on "The Dethbridge in Lethbridge." It wasn't over: the band carried on the vocal hook while jumping off the stage (or, in Banwatt's case, falling over) and into the crowd for a final albeit impromptu encore.

"It never sounds good plugged in," explained Edenloff as the crowd quieted down to hear their final song of the evening, fittingly titled "Good Night." Just like that, the atmosphere changed. Cell phones were everywhere to record this moment, voices would quickly rise only to be hushed immediately. There were no amps or microphones picking up anything, no calls for a loud singalong. All there happened to be was the sound of three musicians playing, and a sold-out crowd doing their best to take it all in.
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