The Dirty Nil Temple, Edmonton AB, November 1
Published Nov 02, 2018There's a fine line in rock'n'roll that exists somewhere just before the point of over-the-top where it reaches its purest, unkempt beauty. Most bands never come close to that line, and those who do often end up snorting it and becoming a cliché version of a rock band.
The Dirty Nil dance right up to the edge of that line with their self-described "incompetent stadium rock," but peak on the high side; too clever to veer off into a lane of drive-time sleaze, too self-aware to take having fun being a band too seriously.
For their Edmonton show at the relatively new Temple venue, the Dirty Nil took the well-tested staples of a hard working band and stacked them on top of each other to form a LEGO tower made up of the best parts of straightforward guitar rock. Their energy, particularly the boundless hype-man spirit from bassist Ross Miller, was endemic. Their inventively crafted lyrics came in equal parts guttural howl and hooky sing-along melody. The 1-2-fuck you beats courtesy of Kyle Fisher drove the Master Volume to eardrum blistering levels, and if the studded cowboy shirt donned by front person Luke Bentham wasn't tongue-in-cheek enough, the bubblegum bubbles he blew during guitar solos signalled that the amount of care they put into being carefree on stage was meant more for spectacle than overthought.
There was a conspicuous swagger to the riffs of "That's What Heaven Feels Like" and "Bathed in Light" as they blasted through through Bentham's boutique Marshall stack, but if there was a Higher Power in operation, it was apparent during the earnest moments of the evening. Prior to "I Don't Want That Phone Call," you could almost imagine Dylan McKay on the other end of the phone yelling, "May the bridges I burn light the way!" as Bentham sincerely implored anyone with, or knowing anyone with, substance abuse problems to seek help.
There was also a surreal engagement amongst concert-goers that provoked a well wish from the band and co-crowd surf from the couple that left Bentham to declare that "anything can happen at a Nil show." To their credit the band then eschewed the will they/won't they question of an encore entirely, gathering for a quick side-stage conference, and reconvened with a good natured, "You knew we weren't done!" followed by a two-song encore to cap the night off.