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Thursday 31 January 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats (Live Review By Nick)

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats, O2 Academy Bristol

During the second week of January  we headed into Bristol for the first time this year, a quick pint and some fine Greek food on board it was a brisk walk, to the O2 Academy for a night filled with folky rock swing blues... If that’s a thing? Both Matt and myself have missed out on these gents a few times, so we were both a little excited. Arriving as usual to a dangerously oversold Academy, we were just in time to catch the last song by support LION and I’m glad that’s all we were in time to see. Usually I’m a fan of the deep course gravely voice but this lady just seemed to try to screech above that and seemed intent on swallowing the microphone, while trying her best to look like a young Bonnie Tyler... No, no... Not for me. Finding a relatively decent spot on the balcony, we settled in for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats (9).

Entering the stage the 7 piece band all supporting some form of headwear and facial hair, immediately broke out into a fanfare of some really catchy folky swing, rammed full of sax and trumpet the crowd were already in their feet dancing around and making their joy known, shortly Rateliff joined the band to rapturous applause in his usual hat, lumberjack getup and straight away broke into a duo of fan anthems I’ve Been Failing and Be There. The sheer brilliance of both Rateliff and the band already evident in these songs I found myself swept away and not able to stand still myself.

Moving swiftly on to a trio of songs from new album Tearing At The Seams including Say It Louder the crowd duly sang along on the top of their voices as the band broke into a mini bluesy breakdown seems to be improvised yet so unbelievably tight it left Matt and myself pretty speechless. With no let up, a personal favourite of mine Howling At Nothing was offered with perfect aplomb. This blues- laden track is chocked full of emotions, highlighted by the uniquely brilliant voice of Rateliff. Hitting both the high long notes of the chorus and the low major keys of the verses, Rateliff was putting on a clinic of how not just sing, but stir emotion that song intended.

Over the next hour we were treated to a mix from songs off both albums, with the band adding a bit more meat to the more mellow songs from the newest offering. Allowing for the crowd and bands energy to be maintained throughout. Only once was there a lull in proceedings, but that was forgiven as it was for the insatiable song... Shake. This song on album is slow menacing and sexy, live however, with band lurking behind Rateliff and the feeling in his voice, this song just oozed sex, blues and passion from start to finish, I’d be surprised if someone didn’t mysteriously become pregnant it was that well delivered!

Other songs that had the crowd singing and dancing around were You Worry Me, Look Here and a massive fan favourite I Need Never Get Old. These were offered with the same high standard as the band had started with, then the song that started it all for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats... S.O.B, and wow was this a moment to remember! Drums being smashed, trumpet, sax and harmonica being blown with no surrender as the guitar lay down a filthy bluesy riff all supported by the flawless vocals of Rateliff describing the perils of alcoholism and the withdrawal. Damn, you could feel the hurt and emotion in this song. Every word was echoed by the crowd as the band left the stage to unified “woaahs” that didn’t let up til they returned for a three song encore, including the endearing Hey Mama.

This truly was a night to remember from a musical and vocal display point of view. From the way the crowd participated in every song with singing or dancing to the raw emotion that was so easily felt in the venue. Rateliff and Co are onto something special here, this melting pot of genres that they deliver musters up feeling for the music, from the very depths of your soul, and takes you over. The same can be said for the band, tight performances throughout, meant for a cracking display of musicianship and a perfectly faultless display, which topped the whole night off. The only sour notes of the evening that took the edge off were, as already mentioned the oversold, cramped venue and the usual drunk student numpties talking all the way through clearly there from one song only.

After being told to shut up a few times they finally took the hint and moved on, but it frustrated me that tickets were wasted on them, when so many fans would have missed out on this sold out event (as we had on two previous occasions)...it will forever perplex me. Nonetheless it wasn’t anywhere near enough to ruin the occasion as all of the crowd left with beaming smiles, still humming and singing as they walked up the street. If you can get hold of tickets to see Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats I couldn’t encourage you more, trust me, you simply will not regret it. Cannot wait for my next fix!

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