The Rural Alberta Advantage – Nottingham Bodega Social Club, Tuesday May 25
Halfway through The Rural Alberta Advantage’s opening number – a raucous, clattering affair – there’s a pause in the music. In the space before his next line, singer/guitarist Nils Edenloff looks heavenwards, them emits a deep sigh. “I’ve played this song so many times”, he explains. “So… MANY… times!”
And then we’re off and away again. Edenloff’s sandpaper rasp claws its way above drummer Paul Banwatt’s tumultuous squall, while their gamine backing vocalist Amy Cole – shoeless, in laddered tights which spell either thrift-store chic or end-of-tour fatigue – picks out one-note melodies on her rickety keyboard. This sets the template for the rest of the set, which is notably more muscular in tone than the band’s rather wan new album, Departing.
Like White Denim and The Dodos before them, the trio’s sound is dominated – and at times, almost overwhelmed – by the rare accomplishment and sheer force of their drummer. Mostly reined in on record, Banwatt comes alive on stage, pummelling his basic kit with blazing-eyed glee.
They’ve all been to Nottingham before; not to play music, just to grab a bite in a “grill house” that turned out to be a kebab shop. Undeterred by the brawl which broke out as they chowed down, they seized the opportunity for a proper return visit.
It’s the last date on their UK tour, and Nils is delighted with the turnout. Jaded no longer, he even risks a rare, semi-apologetic outing for an early cover, dating from the band’s origins at open mic nights in Toronto. It takes a moment or two for us to recognise Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger, whose opening lines could almost pass for Neil Young. “Maybe it was once written like this”, Nils suggests.
As for the self-penned material, there’s a recurring theme of obsessive love. “If I ever hold you again, I’ll hold you tight enough to crush your veins”, Nils offers on Two Lovers. More touchingly, there’s In The Summertime: “Once in a while I know our hearts beat out of time, and once in a while I know they’ll fall back in line.” And finally, encored unmiked from the middle of the floor as the crowd clusters round, there’s the tender kiss-off that closes Departing: “Maybe we might get back together, but good night – good night.”