Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Alberta take Kings Cross

With the exception of the first week in January there can't be a worse time for a band to play an important London gig than immediately after Glasto.

Yet New York-based rock crew Alberta Cross tore it up at a sweaty Water Rats last night a mere 48 hours after Blur closed the Somerset festival.

Much of the deep, folky longing of 2007 EP The Thief And The Heartbreaker remains but crucially frontman Peter Ericson Stakee and his lank-haired mob have added granite-hard riffs and a ballast of raw fury to the Cross sound.

Of the new songs culled from forthcoming debut album Broken Side Of Time 'ATX' is particularly fierce. The experience feels akin to watching angry Bob Dylan covering The Verve. But this comes at the end. Stakee's impressive voice and the sheer volume of these lads is inescapable from the start, when 'Ramblin Home' begins the show. It's here the My Morning Jacket similarities are most overt, but this is no bad thing considered the quality of the Kentucky band. Dust-blown country imagery is peppered throughout the set and there's a pleasing contradiction: for a band whose songs are so midnight blue and writ large with lonesome towns and sadness, Alberta Cross seem a highly personable bunch.

A more overt contradiction can be found at the group's core and it's familiar to all students of rock and pop history. Despite making music evocative of California and deserts, cowboys and cacti, Stakee grew up travelling between Sweden and the UK, while other central member and bassist Terry Wolfers is a north Londoner. To this extent the band are fakes, but hey, Jack White isn't a 1930s Delta bluesman and David Bowie was just a bod from Beckenham so maybe authenticity is as much about attitude as geography.

Punters who called for the swoonsome jangle and whiskey regret of 'Lucy Ryder' are sated when the band crank out the tune for an encore but they never did comply with my shouted mid-gig request to play Thriller.

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