Concert Review: Rural Alberta Advantage, Nov 17, Phoenix

There are many similarities between seeing a band and making love. The first time with someone new is always filled with anticipation, uncertainty and intrigue. If you’re lucky it turns out pretty great. But with a repeat performance, the parallels become even more poignant. Sometimes you are more disappointed than you were the first time. Often as one matures, there is slow improvement as skills progress; and rarely, like Thursday night with the Rural Alberta Advantage, it’s like seeing someone you’re completely in love with after being apart for a while. You know that what’s coming is going to leave you entirely fulfilled – and then somehow, it’s even better.

Speaking of first times, I did have a first time with one of the opening acts – a young gentleman named Darren Eedens. Taking on the expanse of the Phoenix solo with his guitar, banjo and borrowed mandolin, Darren managed to captivate the early-comers with his songs that debated what is important in life, and captured his feelings about a bunch of girls that were mean to him along the way.  With an endearingly awkward presence, and fun bluegrass folk style, the most remarkable thing was his amazing technical skill. In such a big space, the show could have benefitted from a backing band. I have no doubt that he would amaze in a small venue. Lucky for us, Darren has upcoming shows at Not My Dog, C’est What and the Painted Lady

“Characteristic of all great lovers, there are little things that they do that are ‘just right’. Things that you wait for with baited breath during repeat performances.”

Following this and wearing the biggest smiles ever, the RAA took to the stage for their last show of a busy touring 2011. They seemed just as excited to play the sold out house as the audience was to see them. By the time the time they hit Don’t Haunt this Place, I knew that the night’s tryst was going to be the best show I’d seen them play.  Characteristic of all great lovers, there are little things that they do that are ‘just right’. Things that you wait for with baited breath during repeat performances.  Amy Cole’s perfectly timed xylophone in Under the Knife and Ballad of the RAA, as well as her angelic vocals and base drumming that started in Rush Apart were captivating. Nils Edenloff’ strained, genuine, passionate lyrical performance hit that spot deep in your chest that makes you hold your breath. Paul Banwatt’s beaming smile while playing complex percussion was positively infectious.

Playing songs from both albums Departing and Hometowns, the audience was with the band for every step. At one point, Nils wistfully reminisced about writing and practicing these songs at a space they had rented just up the street – never imagining an audience like this would be singing all the words back to them.  In typical RAA fashion, they also did a few fun covers – this time with a Canadian twist: The Littlest Hobo, Canada Geese by Gord Downey, and my favourite of the night Lover Lover Lover by Leonard Cohen.

The highlight of the night was the encore. Not even able to wait for the slow clap to culminate, the band jumped back on stage, said “this is our last show of the year, so we’re just going to play as much as we can okay?” and threw it down. North Star and Sleep All Day got the audience swaying, and then Barnes’ Yard and Deathbridge in Lethbridge brought back the dancing and clapping fury that had been going on throughout.  Finally, leaving the stage and heading for a place atop the side bar, the acoustic Goodnight to a silent Phoenix audience was like a forehead kiss at the end of it all – the perfect goodnight.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Barnes’ Yard by Vicente EDPMC

Posted on by stacey in Concerts

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