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Friday, Jan. 15, 2010

The Rural Alberta Advantage @ Mad Planet

Jan. 14, 2010

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In every Rural Alberta Advantage write-up, three details always seem to overwhelm their image: their Neutral Milk Hotel-influenced sound, their storied album history and their Canadianism. Let's set those aside, because this tightknit three-piece shouldn't be heralded for skin-deep observations. As Thursday night's Mad Planet gig proved, the group's brilliance emanates from their passionate, bristly live performances.

Nils Edenloff's searing vocals burned throughout the packed crowd like whiskey caught on fire. Keyboardist Amy Cole played his soothing foil, cooling off the flames with her delicate voice on tracks like "Don't Haunt This Place" and "The Deadroads." And Paul Banwatt's ferocious drumming overpowered a few early songs in the set. He broke his kick drum pedal 10 minutes in.

The Toronto-based indie-rockers predominately played tunes from their 2008 debut, Hometowns. Little buzz was heard for the self-released record until eMusic featured it on its Web site in November of that year. It earned sleeper hit status—which it still holds—prompting Saddle Creek Records to re-release the album last July.

Hometowns yearns for the past, whether it be a childhood memory, a lost love or a quaint Canadian landscape. It's no surprise that Thursday night Edenloff added two nostalgic covers to the set. A serene rendition of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" and the playful theme to "The Littlest Hobo," an ’80s Canadian TV series featuring a stray German shepherd, melded with The Rural Alberta Advantage’s themes of longing for a previous time. Cole even mentioned that she found Milwaukee’s " Bronze Fonz" statue endearing, saying that Toronto didn't have anything quite like it.

The Rural Alberta Advantage reached the night's apex with an unrecorded song, one that Edenloff prefaced as second-rate. It transcended his timid introduction, though. The repetitive chorus sounded shatteringly real ("I let you go/ And I hold you/ I let you die/ And I hold you"), but only because Edenloff's face turned red from what seemed like utter despair. You felt the lead singer's cathartic release. And you could see why Rural Alberta Advantage puts on a great live show—they make every song singe, even their mediocre ones.

Photo by Cj Foeckler

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