Maybe the greatest test a show can pass is how many people are talking …
Not wasting any time easing the sold-out crowd in, Nathaniel Rateliff and his band broke out into ‘I Need Never Get Old’, a horn heavy song that sounds like something Van Morrison would have played back in the day. They proceeded to play all of the songs from the new self titled album that has garnered mass appeal in a very short amount of time. As a result, the audience was mixed from really young kids to some very excited seniors. The classic sound is hard not to dance to, and Rateliff and The Night Sweats (great backing band name) kept the energy amped up the entire evening, even on the slower songs.
Stage presence is a huge part Nathaniel Rateliff’s performance. He’s able to inspire hips to shake within the first two notes of a tune, and then deliver such heartfelt lyrics just like the old soul acts. Nothing sounded contrived, or as if he was trying to channel Otis Redding. It’s all natural and new, and he is definitely the most exciting artist in the neo-soul movement.
The night wouldn’t have been complete with the hit ‘S.O.B’, being played, and Nathaniel saved it for the end, belting out “Son of a bitch! Give me a drink.” with a drink in hand, hamming it up for the audience a bit. Pretty soon the entire room was singing along and dancing their asses off. The term “new classic” is so often misused, but it is actually may be valid in this case. I can hear this song played at dive bars for decades to come. Unfortunately a good chunk of the crowd headed for the doors immediately after S.O.B. ended and missed out on quite possibly the best rendition of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” that I’ve ever heard. Levon Helm would have been impressed. Those who stayed just had more room to soak it in. Nathaniel Rateliff has really stepped up his game. Once a one dimensional folk singer, he now has an old school sound that is modern through it’s sincerity, and backed by an array of super-talented musicians. The horn section really stood out – with two saxophonists and a trumpet player that provided such a rich backdrop to the overall sound. Seeing Rateliff play with the Night Sweats tonight felt like I was witnessing a band in the midst of a major breakout.