Photos by Tim Dwenger
The Scene: It was the day after Thanksgiving, and there’s no doubt there was a still a festive spirit in the air at The Gothic despite more than a few concert goers surely shaking out the cobwebs leftover from washing their turkey down with a few too many glasses of wine. As the clock pushed 9pm, the lines on Broadway stretched halfway down the block and the November chill in the air cut into us as we waited for our turn at the window among a sea of Hipsters, a smattering of Baby Boomers, and a healthy crowd of 30-somethings more than a little excited to check out the Nathaniel Rateliff double bill that was on tap for the evening.
Nathaniel Rateliff: After an opening set from Land Lines, Nathaniel Rateliff took the stage for his first set of the evening: a Folk set celebrating the release of his new record Falling Faster Than You Can Run. When the opening notes of the title track washed over the nearly capacity crowd, a hush fell over the audience and you could nearly hear a pin drop as the soft swells of Patrick Meese’s bowed cymbal and Rateliff’s resonator guitar filled the room. Admittedly, given the slow pace of the track, it was a bit of a strange choice for an opener, but since the evening was in honor of the new record, I deemed it appropriate.
The hush remained over the room for the first few songs of the set but, as the beer took it’s hold on the bellies of the folks in the back of the room, the level of chatter began to increase. On stage Rateliff seemed un-phased by the din and he and his band wound their way through a bulk of the new record by way of “You Should Have Seen The Other Guy” from In Memory of Loss and “This” from the Shroud EP. Throughout the set Rateliff repeatedly got the crowd involved with Sea Chanty like sing-alongs that pushed the boundaries of typical “Folk” shows.
Several times during the show I found myself comparing what I was hearing to the smokey Jazz club Folk of master songwriter and producer Joe Henry while those around me made comparisons to Mumford & Sons. Interestingly enough, despite their differences, both comparisons are valid and a testament to the varied and lyrically complex music that Rateliff showcased during the 60 minute performance. As the clock pushed past 10:45 he introduced “Still Trying,” the lead track from Falling Faster…, and as the song built and pounded it’s way into my soul I found myself understanding why Rateliff’s Folk music has built such a strong a loyal following both here in States and across the pond.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats: After a brief break, the stage began to fill with musicians and the vibe in the room changed from a chatty Folk club to an all out dance party as The Night Sweats took the stage. Driving bass lines, bright guitars, and punchy horns filled the air over a throbbing drum beat as the band warmed up the rowdy crowd. It was as if we had jumped in a time machine and journeyed back to the early 70’s when Rateliff finally emerged from the shadows, drink in hand, and the room erupted. He stood and took it all in for a moment before launching into a 45 minute set of R&B infused Soul music that never let up.
While Rateliff transformed himself into the passionate and sweat soaked Soul frontman he was clearly born to be, the band behind him proved drum tight as they fueled the party and poured themselves into tracks like “Look It Here” and “Trying So Hard Not To Know” from the band’s debut 7″ released earlier this year. While many in the crowd didn’t know a bulk of the setlist, that didn’t stop them from throwing their heads back and their hands in the air old-time revival style. The whole set was truly something to witness but when The Night Sweats closed things out with the rousing, and still unreleased, “Son Of A Bitch,” and then returned to encore with The Band’s “The Shape I’m In,” I swear they nearly blew the roof off the place. There was electricity in the air as Rateliff boogie footed and gyrated like he was channeling the Godfather of Soul himself before sliding back into a powerful and soaring reprise of “Son Of A Bitch” to close out The Night Sweats’ set.
We chanted and clapped as the band disappeared into the wings, hoping we could summon them back to continue the party late into the night, but when Rateliff appeared after lights came up, he joked that we all “should of just gone home” and closed things out by bookending the show with a Folk tune to the delight of the hardcore fans who had stuck it out to the bitter end. It was one hell of an evening and one that proved that Nathaniel Rateliff is without a doubt on the top of his game these days.
Stage Presence: A+
Set/Light Show: C+