When Colorado based singer/songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff made the bold move to hang up his life as a folk troubadour and instead decided to forge a new path in the form of old school rhythm & blues, I doubt he saw the success waiting for him on the horizon. With his eponymous debut album with his new backing band The Night Sweats he became one of the biggest breakthrough acts of 2015. With his infectiously fun and soulful performances he has been wowing audiences at some of the biggest festivals, appearing on some of the most popular tv shows and winning fans on both sides of the Atlantic. I caught him at the O2 Academy to see the main man in action.
First up was the brilliant Ed Harcourt, touring in support of his latest album Furnaces. Clearly an immensely talented musician, he performed solo and played all of the instruments himself with the aid of a looper pedal. It was like watching a musical architect at work, with each new piece building to create something far greater. At times it lacked finesse and required a bit of patience from the audience as he constructed his multifarious music, but the end result was certainly worth the wait. He was at his best however when he kept things simple. On the more piano driven songs he could devote more of his attention to creating a powerful performance and it was in these moments that you completely forgot that he was simply the opening act.
When Nathaniel and the band took to the stage and played fan favourite ‘I Need Never Get Old’ the entire venue simply erupted and the crowd kept up that energy throughout the remainder of the night. The Night Sweats played through some of the finer points of their debut including ‘Howling At Nothing’ and ‘Look It Here’ with great gusto, clearly loving every minute. Every member of the soulful ensemble provided backing vocals and took every opportunity to dance along to the music they were creating. Nathaniel’s delightful carefree performance had the whole crowd singing and clapping, and had those lucky few with enough available room around them dancing along to the irresistible lure of the rhythm.
The fun factor hit critical levels when the time came for Nathaniel’s biggest hit. If I thought there was a wild party atmosphere before it was nothing compared to the sing-along splendour of ‘S.O.B.’, when all inhibitions simply went out the window. The crowd was still singing when they came back onstage to play ‘The Shape I’m In’ by The Band as their final encore. I’ve been to many concerts in my time but I’m struggling to think of any that can match the unparalleled joy and positivity of that night. The venue was like a solitary oasis in a world gone to ruin. It was a shining example of the power of live music, and why we need more artists like Nathaniel Rateliff in the world to make our lives brighter.