The last time the Rural Alberta Advantage played Halifax, they played to a packed church as part of Halifax Pop Explosion in 2011. On Friday night the indie rock trio from Toronto returned to Halifax to play the Marquee Ballroom full of rambunctious people who were ready to stomp, clap, sing along and splash beer.
Instead of burying the drummer at the back of the stage as is the case with most bands, Paul Banwatt’s kit was placed at the front of the stage, within fist-pump distance as an overzealous fan demonstrated all night long. Right from the opening notes of “Stamp”, Banwatt hit each drum and cymbal with vigour, as if playing his instrument as hard as possible is the only way he knows how to play.
Do-it-all multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole matched Banwatt’s energy, singing backing vocals, playing keyboards and drums — sometimes all at the same time. When she didn’t have anything to do, she’d pace behind the band dancing and hyping up the crowd to clap along.
In the middle of the stage stood Nils Edenloff, anchoring the band with guitar and vocals. His distinctive rough-edged vocals oozed with emotion as he took the crowd on a trip with songs sharing the names of Alberta places (Edmonton, Lethbridge, Vulcan and Frank) while also revealing personal songs of love and discovery.
The setlist was predictably heavy on music form the trio’s latest album, Mended With Gold, but thematic similarities from all three of the band’s albums made blending the old with new seamless. A lot of the same tricks are used from song to song, the “woah’s” that are just begging to be sung along with, the mesmerizing drumming and the passionate strumming. Still, the band seemed to kick things up just a notch towards the end of the show, closing out the main set with “Four Night Rider”, “Edmonton”, “Frank AB” and “Drain the Blood” for a true stomp-rocking experience.
Despite the mounting energy of old favourites, Edenloff was able to return for a solo acoustic encore, playing Departing opening track “Two Lovers” then transitioning into “The Build” before being joined by his bandmates to close out the night. Like runners crossing the finish line, exhausted from pouring high-enegery into the performance, the Rural Alberta Advantage gave one final push to close out the encore before disappearing into the night.
Photos: Scott Blackburn/Mixtape