Author: Kelley Hecker
09/26/2009 | Venus | | Live Show Preview
"Yo Canada!" a man in the audience yelled as the members of the Toronto-based indie rock trio the Rural Alberta Advantage took to the stage. A huge grin formed on singer Nils Edenloff's face as he scanned the crowd: "There's so many of you!" The Alberta natives' profile has risen considerably since Saddle Creek re-released its 2008 debut, Hometowns, in July. "I never thought we'd fill two shows at Schubas," said Edenloff, stunned the band was playing its second sold-out show of the night for a rapturous Chicago audience.

Things stalled as vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole battled technical problems, to which drummer Paul Banwatt quipped, "It's all a part of the show! You know, I don't usually get to talk so while I have the mic, I just want to say: I love you guys."

The crowd returned the love, and the cheers and applause never ceased. Once the issue was resolved, the band launched into the acoustic thumpers "Rush Apart" in which Cole joyfully bopped across the stage banging drumsticks together and "The Ballad of the RAA." The fast-paced "Don't Haunt This Place" drew hoots and hollers as the crowd danced and sang along to every word.

In addition to most of Hometowns, the Rural Alberta Advantage performed several new songs including "Two Lovers" and "North Star" as well as covers of ABBA's 1975 hit "S.O.S." and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" from Rocky III. Edenloff managed to transform the latter from cheesy to sincere, which drew huge applause from the adoring crowd. "I was told they were from here," he said, referring to Survivor. After a moment of silence, he laughed, "I was expecting at least one person [to confirm this]." (The band is in fact from Chicago. Sorry we left you hanging, Nils.)

"The next song is about two kids I went to school with who biked from Fort McMurray [Alberta] to Evanston [Illinois]. They never made it," Edenloff said, and then quickly noted, "They survived. They just never made it TO Evanston." The band jumped into "Four Night Rider," and Cole and the audience danced hard as they belted out the lyrics.

"I don't mean to tell a story before every song," Edenloff said later, "but a couple in San Francisco really loves this next song, 'In the Summertime.' They asked us to play their wedding anniversary. We didn't not because we didn't want to. There were scheduling conflicts, but we dedicated it to them at the show." After a short pause, he joked, "We'll play your barbecues, if you want. Yours first," and gestured to a man laughing in the front row who called dibs. The synthy ballad was performed flawlessly, Edenloff and Cole's vocals filled with emotion as they sang the beautifully sweet love song.

After an hour, Edenloff announced their last song, which prompted the audience to loudly boo. "That keeps happening. We'll play this, and then we'll talk," he laughed as the band launched into one of Hometowns' many highlights, the fantastically fun "The Deadroads."

Following a quick powwow off-stage, the band returned for a five-song encore. As Edenloff introduced the high-energy fan-favorite, "The Dethbridge in Lethbridge," he shared one final story about the songs' inspiration. "It sucks in Lethbridge [Alberta]. That's what my friend said. He said it I didn't say it," he clarified. Cole, Edenloff, and Banwatt ended "Dethbridge" unplugged and in the middle of the audience, turning it into a campfire sing-a-long. The members then hopped on a bench and performed "Goodnight," an unreleased track that made for a lovely closer. When finished, the ever gracious Edenloff ran back to the stage to thank the crowd one last time. "Thank you. You have no idea how special this night was to us." The sentiment was mutual, as the audience knew it had witnessed something extraordinary.


LP / CD / MP3