Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats bring the energy of gospel and folk to The Fillmore

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night SweatsPhotos by Steve Carlson // Written by Brett Ruffenach //

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats with Paper Bird //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
January 27th, 2016 //

Many great live performers are great because of one thing: energy. Energy, however, doesn’t come in just one form. It doesn’t just require dancing across a stage, clever banter with the audience or “turning it up to 11.” Sometimes, energy can be patient; energy can be humble.

Indeed, given the right context, this type of showmanship can be more powerful and garner more enthusiasm than any impressive guitar solo or dance move could muster. This type of energy was put on display last week by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, who played a pair of sold-out shows at The Fillmore.

As the warm glow of The Fillmore’s trademark chandeliers dimmed and Rateliff’s seven-piece band took the stage on the first of two nights in SF, the crowd — with an age range spanning multiple generations of live music fans — greeted them warmly. Opening with a organ-led jam session, the band’s frontman eventually followed behind.

Hailing from Hermann, Mo., Rateliff has a look that I would liken more to the bouncers who work at Zeitgeist in The Mission than a gospel/folk/rock bandleader. After quickly thanking the crowd for joining him on this night, Rateliff and his sidekicks jumped into “I Need Never Get Old”, the opening track from the band’s recently released self-titled album. In the first minute of the song, the three strongest elements of Rateliff’s live show — the organ, a horns section comprised of a booming tenor sax and trumpet and the group’s vocal talent — were made quite clear.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

While the band played through the majority of its new album, one key difference between its studio and live renditions is the way the live performances are led by an extremely talented organist, filling every open space between The Night Sweats’ tight rhythms and their soaring harmonies. During “I’ve Been Falling”, a mid-tempo, blues-meets-soul ballad about a man pleading for forgiveness to a lost lover, Rateliff gave the classic Hammond organ sound plenty of room to shine during a captivating solo. With the end of the set nearing, Rateliff played “Wasting Time” with its cascading, nostalgic sound balancing perfectly between all of the band’s components.

The septet closed with its instant earworm of a single “S.O.B.” — a song, even described by Rateliff himself, that is more of a joke than a serious take on heartbreak — and the crowd howled while singing along all the way until the end. As Rateliff and company walked off stage, fans enthusiastically continued to sing the opening melody of “S.O.B”, getting louder and louder until The Night Sweats returned to the stage and jumped into a groovy cover of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In”.

Rateliff, subsequently, joined the rest of his backing band and wrapped up the set, expressing sincere gratitude to the crowd for spending the evening with them. The singer-songwriter is a performer who is not shy, but he is humble. His enthusiasm and gratitude is clear, and it’s also authentic.

As a band on the rise, especially with two upcoming appearances at Coachella and a number of other music festivals this year, it’s clear that Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats have found the right kind of energy to offer to a crowd: one of passion, one of talent and one of gratitude.

I Need Never Get Old
The Intro
Look It Here
I’ve Been Failing
Howling at Nothing
Out on the Weekend
Mellow Out
Thank You
Trying So Hard Not To Know
Wasting Time

The Shape I’m In (The Band cover)
What I Need

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