Armed with an array of Fender guitars and ten o'clock shadows, the members of blues-rock outfit Alberta Cross showed impressive stage polish and maturity during their June 2 show at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg, one of the final stops on the band's first headlining U.S. tour.
The Brooklyn-based group -- which has previously opened for Dave Matthews Band, Them Crooked Vultures, the Shins and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club -- boasts a gritty indie-rock sound that belies its Swedish and English origins, remaining unflinchingly rooted in Americana. It's tight and raw at the same time, a frenzied meld of crashing guitars, whining slide, bluesy prog-rock drums, and piercing vocals that suggest influence by Robert Plant, Jim James, and Neil Young.
Alberta Cross kicked off its 12-song set with the rootsy "Old Man Chicago," one of the more folk-inspired tracks from its full-length debut, "The Broken Side of Time." "Taking Control" followed, with shimmering, overdriven guitars and whirling keys giving it a '90s alt-rock sound. The band also revived fan favorites from its early EP releases, including "Lucy Rider", "Ramblin' Home" and "Low Man," and an anthemic performance of "The Thief and the Heartbreaker" saw bobbing heads meet in a collective nod of approval.
Despite alternate guitar tunings and frequent gear swap-outs, Alberta Cross pressed on without delay, as Austin Beede and Terry Wolfers (on drums and bass, respectively) proved that grittiness need not come at the expense of cohesiveness. The stage bathed in soft blue light, a series of "oohs" built up to "Rise from the Shadows," one of Alberta Cross' best live numbers. A haunting, cathartic mid-tempo jam, it retires frontman Petter Ericson Stakee's from his rhythm guitar for some stage prowling, as his lofty vocals cut through a steady drumbeat. With the brim of his hat pulled over his eyes, Stakee resembled a Jack White doppelgänger and looked as cool as anyone possibly could while playing the tambourine.
Alberta Cross' single "ATX" was reserved for the encore, and it was a wild jam marked by the banshee cry of Delta slide guitar, an utterly massive chorus and a pinned-down drumbeat. Fittingly, the night closed with a faithful take on John Lennon's "Steel and Glass," which the band recorded and released shortly after "The Broken Side of Time." Setting its six- and four-strings to rest, the band quietly left the stage to cheers, chants of "AC! AC!" and the desperate cries of two inebriated concertgoers: "Keep going!"
Opening act the Postelles first warmed up the crowd with its catchy brand of garage-rock, winning a few extra cheers during power-pop single "123 Stop" and a cover of the Ramones' "Beat on the Brat." U.K. foursome 22-20's followed and performed tracks from its upcoming sophomore set, including the foreboding "Bitter Pills" and title cut "Shake, Shiver, and Moan." Long after happy hour had ended too soon, Alberta Cross took the stage.
Here is Alberta Cross' setlist:
"Old Man Chicago"
"The Thief and the Heartbreaker"
"Leave Us and Forgive Us"
"Broken Side of Time"
"Song 3 Blues"
"Rise from the Shadows"
"Steel and glass"