The Rural Alberta Advantage have a habit of touring with openers from their native land that folks in the States may not have heard. They introduced me to the music of The Wooden Sky and Dan Mangan, and last night they gave Toronto rockers July Talk a big stage to unleash their balls-to-the-wall set for some new ears. With so much adrenaline pumping I was ready for frontman Peter Dreimanis to keel over at any second. They blast through songs from their self-titled debut and generally just had some fun entertaining the crowd. I would rate this set slightly higher than when I saw them at TURF this summer, but both were high quality.
The headliners took the stage a few minutes after ten and played for about an hour and fifteen minutes. Rather than focus on their newest record, Mended With Gold, they played a bunch of old stuff with some new ones thrown in here and there. I was surprised I actually liked the new songs better here than on the album. Especially the track “45/33,” which had kind of a 70’s hard rock vibe to it at Metro instead of the 90’s alternative sound I feel on Mended.
Paul Banwatt lived up to his reputation as one of the best drummers of his generation. Every song brought a violent attack on his kit and I can’t believe he doesn’t have to replace his gear every other week. Even when he’s away from the set he’s standing up pounding his sticks together so hard I thought they’d shatter and send pieces flying into the audience.
RAA’s set was solid, but I feel like some of the energy they displayed in 2009-2010 has faded. Even my favorite songs “Don’t Haunt This Place” and “Drain The Blood” felt muddled and tossed off, as if years of playing these tunes at show after show have caused the band to resent them.
I will say Nils seemed more relaxed and talked to the audience quite a bit. His tale of renting a cabin in northern Ontario that he was sure he would be murdered in was pretty funny. Amy seemed nervous/excited every time she spoke, a bit like Mary Catherine Gallagher on Saturday Night Live.
Highlights of the show, for me, were a very pretty version of “North Star,” a great take on “Tornado ’87,” and Amy and Paul sharing percussion work on the sticks during “Rush Apart.”
The tour continues for 30 more dates, which you can find here. July Talk will continue to open for the US and UK shows so get there early.