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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Rural Alberta Advantage Covers 'Eye of the Tiger' at Bottom of the Hill

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2011 at 8:35 AM

The Rural Alberta Advantage at Bottom of the Hill last night.
  • The Rural Alberta Advantage at Bottom of the Hill last night.
The Rural Alberta Advantage

April 13, 2011

@ Bottom of the Hill

Better than: Almost everything else protected by Canadian content laws.

It takes a lot of balls to play an acoustic cover of "Eye of the Tiger." Two years ago, when the Rural Alberta Advantage first came to Bottom of the Hill, the band was shocked to find a sold-out crowd that demanded the first encore on its debut American tour. Having played all their material, frontman Nils Edenloff wrenched his tired voice into a nasally croon for the song that was equally hilarious and impressive. But this time around, the RAA had no reservations about throwing the most clichéd montage music of our time into the middle of an otherwise-serious set. Although they are far from veterans on the indie touring circuit, Edenloff and Co. have all the swagger they need to pull the whole act off.

Canadian indie rock today is all too often dedicated to grandiosity, angularity, and oddly specific "super-group" tags (because yes, Wolf Parade and the Travelling Wilburys totally deserve the same distinction). The RAA, on the other hand, is more similar to the impassioned folk-rock that its label, Saddle Creek, has promoted over the years. While Broken Social Scene can boast four guitarists, the RAA opts for a simple guitar-keyboard-drum combination that requires keyboardist/vocalist Amy Cole to play bass through a foot pedal during live performances. 


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Yet for all the group's simplicity, damn, its members know how to drive a song. Drummer Paul Banwatt can be counted among the most impressive live drummers. His metronomic precision on even the most complex fills pushes Edenloff's basic folk structures into the realm of punk-rock stunners. Edenloff's zealous wails complete the transformation the band makes into its grungier live incarnation. Tracks like the jangling "Rush Apart" could even have inspired some dancing, although Tuesday's only participant was one ceremonially intoxicated postgrad sorority gal.

Ultimately, the charm behind the Rural Alberta Advantage lies not in sheer talent. By many measures, the band's most recent San Francisco visit was imperfect. Edenloff's voice cracked and whinnied, and Cole was a bit behind on some of the earlier tracks' harmonies (to her credit, she improved later on). This band is magnetic for the earnestness in its message and performance. Inexpensive equipment plastered with Jazzercise and local radio stickers adorned the stage set; lyrics written almost solely about the band's humble Albertan beginnings peppered the compositions. Much as the "Eye of the Tiger" cover might suggest, the RAA is unafraid to own its imperfections. And while it isn't the most original or musically memorable band, it certainly is a hell of a lot of fun.


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Critic's Notebook

Random detail: Amy Cole went out of her way to congratulate San Francisco on the best weather the band has seen since SXSW, which goes to show that for every L.A. transplant scoffing at our Bay Bridge wind advisories, there is one Canadian loving it. 


Quote of the evening: "You guys got a hockey team here? No? All right, let's talk about the weather" -- Nils Edenloff 

Tuesday's goners: During the band's encore, one crowd member shouted for the band to "play something good," to which Edenloff responded, "We've only got one ace, and you're about to hear it." Later on, another asked him to play "Four Night Rider," a track which he noted that "we already played. So yup, you used your vote on that." 

Setlist:

Luciana

Muscle Relaxants

Rush Apart

Don't Haunt This Place

Tornado '87

Two Lovers

The Breakup

Eye of the Tiger (Survivor cover)

The Ballad of the RAA

Four Night Rider

Edmonton

Under the Knife

In the Summertime

Frank, AB

The Deadroads

Stamp

[Encore]

North Star

Drain the Blood

Barnes' Yard

The Dethbridge in Lethbridge

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Travis Bill

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