Show Review

Brian Ahnmark
An Alberta Cross concert is akin to a stick of dynamite: It sizzles until it ultimately explodes.

The Brooklyn-based quintet delivered a simmering 13-song performance at the Basement on May 24, culling primarily from their superb debut album Broken Side of Time. But whereas the recorded version of Alberta Cross shimmers with studio polish, the stage version of the band churns with animalistic fury.

Petter Ericson Stakee is the consummate frontman, lanky with long hair, a custom hat and unmistakable pipes. But the surprise spark plug was guitarist Sam Kearney, whose fretwork flourishes flavored each song.

The band opened with “Old Man Chicago” and “Taking Control” - the former a deceptive waltz anti-ballad, the latter a roiling, rhythmic beast. Stakee's pure tenor went to war with Kearney's feedback-laced leads, with the guitarist acrobatically swooping to the ground to wretch more noise from the amplifier. Before blowing their proverbial wad, however, the band settled the flames with a mellow mid-set break. “Lucy Rider” and “The Thief & The Heartbreaker,” a pair of songs from the Alberta Cross debut EP, delighted the faithful. The band also ran through a new number, “To The Sea,” and treated the crowd to an acoustic rendition of early song “Low Man.”

Then came lift-off.

A pummeling “Leave Us and Forgive Us” served as appetizer to an epic “Broken Side of Time,” which began with Stakee playfully bumping guitars with Kearney and ended with the band locked in perfect unison as drummer Austin Beede gleefully smashed cymbals. “Rise From the Shadows” transformed into creepy gospel, Kearney trading in his guitar for keyboard and Stakee dropping the six-string for a tambourine and some water strider dance moves.

Main set closer “ATX” plowed along on Terry Wolfers' throbbing heartbeat of a bass line, while Kearney injected a shrieking banshee slide hook surely intended to scald the eardrums. The band returned to the stage for a one-song encore, a fresh extended jam entitled “Steel & Glass.”

Nashville quartet Mona opened the evening with a short but memorable set, driven by Nick Brown's tortured yowl. Their anthemic songs were evidently born arena-ready, and threatened to burst the hinges off the tiny venue doors.

The 22-20s followed, their well-crafted tunes gradually catching fire as the set progressed. The band released one self-titled album before disbanding in 2006; now reformed with a new lineup, The 22-20s are set to release their second LP, Shake/Shiver/Moan, this summer. (Bonus points to the band for providing show-goers with a complimentary Latest Heartbreak Live EP.)