It's been a couple years since Matt Mays last hit a stage in Vancouver, but with his recent album Once Upon a Hell of a Time out late last year, Mays returned to the Commodore.
Opening the night was his pal and Vancouver musician Dustin Bentall, with his dark roots-rock sound. I missed the first couple songs, arriving just as he started a cover of Lucinda Williams' "Drunken Angel" then going into some boot-stomping tunes like "Six Shooter" and "3000 Miles".
Bentall put on a strong set, and was definitely a good pairing to open the night.
Not long after, Matt Mays and his band took the stage. Starting off with "Faint of Heart" from the recent album, he played a nice mix of new and old throughout the night; from rockers like "Building a Boat" and "Indio" to more chill "Spoonful of Sugar" or "Ola Volo", a song from the new album about a local vancouver artist (who also provided the cover art for his new album).
Mays (and the whole band, really, which included his longtime friend and collaborator Adam Baldwin) were overflowing with passion, and that definitely spread into the crowd, as it was clear how much they loved to be performing. The crowd was hanging on every note, and often singing along, with songs like "Take it on Faith", or just yelling, in the case of "Travellin'".
After the ode to his hometown of Dartmouth in "City of Lakes", Mays ended the main set with a song that I would rank among my all time favourites (not just of Mays), "Terminal Romance". The crowd once more sang along with the heartwrenching lyrics as Mays poured his soul out on stage before momentarily leaving...
And of course coming back out again for another fan favourite, "On The Hood", as Mays jumped into the crowd to sing (and in an amusing moment, he ran to the backstage door to get back around to the stage... and was stopped & checked by the security dude at the door). That right there would have been enough, but they did one more encore-fakeout and came back out one last time for the old hit "Cocaine Cowgirl".
Mays has long been one of my favourite performers, with shows that are always full of raw energy. During the show, he promised it wouldn't be quite as long until next time, and here's hoping it's true.
Faint of Heart
Building a Boat
Spoonful of Sugar
Queen of Portland Street
Take It on Faith
City of Lakes
On the Hood
JP Maurice, Leisure Club, Small Town Artillery, and Year of the Wolf
January 12, 2018
Christine McAvoy Photography
I feel like there have been a lot of good double-bills happening this year, and this past Friday at the Commodore was right up with the rest of them. The Rural Alberta Advantage is touring their new album called The Wild, and have brought with them none other than BC's own Yukon Blonde.
Not counting that one time I saw them this summer on an outdoor energy drink sponsored truck that turns into a stage, it's been a year and a half since I've seen a proper show from Yukon Blonde. And in that time they've been working on some brand new music which they shared with the Commodore. Playing pretty much a full set, they started with a host of brand new songs, including "Emotional Blackmail", a sultry song that bassist James Younger took lead vocals on, and a slow jam from Brandon Scott. The new songs sounded great, and was everything you love about Yukon Blonde, like their killer harmonies, just cranked up a notch.
Almost exactly halfway through the set, they played the new single (and total earworm) "Crazy", and transitioned into old favourites for the rest of the set, starting with "My Girl" which had the packed floor singing along. Jeff Innes was also in fine form, literally rolling up his sleeves to rock out, as they brought the set to a close with the ridiculously fun & upbeat "Favourite People".
It was nice to hear the tease of the new stuff from the band, and makes me that much more excited for the upcoming album.
I mentioned it being a while since I saw Yukon Blonde, but it's been twice as long since the last time I saw The Rural Alberta Advantage perform live. Guitarist & vocalist Nils Edenloff and drummer Paul Banwatt were joined by new member Robin Hatch on keyboards, bass, & also vocals, for a set that spanned their four albums, going all the way back to the moody "Don't Haunt This Place" up to "Beacon Hill", a song written the recent wildfires in Fort McMurray.
Throughout the night, Nils' distinct vocals rang through the room, as well as Paul's frantically superhuman drumming and Robin doing, well, all the things at once. Highlights included older hits like "Barnes' Yard", "Vulcan, AB" (one of many Alberta themed songs) and the explosive "Stamp", dedicated to Gord, and new ones from the album like the darker "Alright" and the building energy "White Lights" (which, I was a little disappointed featured mostly blue stage lights, but whatever).
After wrapping up the main set with the simmering intensity of the aptly named "Terrified", they were back for a few more, Nils responding to the chants of "One more song" by joking that their songs are pretty short, so they'd do a few more, as they launched into "The Build". And finally, they finished off the night with one of my favourites of theirs -- as well as a lot of others, judging by the stomping, clapping, dancing, and singing along -- one last Albertan-inspired tune, "The Dethbridge In Lethbridge".
You know how sometimes you have those bands where you pick up their albums, and you like them, but it isn't until you see them live that you remember just how good they are? The RAA is one of those bands for me, and it's not until you feel the raw power of the trio that you remember.
Don't Haunt This Place
Bad Luck Again
On the Rocks
Beacon Hill (fort Mac)
Runners in the Night
Drain the Blood
The Dethbridge in Lethbridge