Sunday, November 8, 2015

Concert Review: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats @ The TLA, Philadelphia, PA 11/05/15

Even though success may seem to happen over night, behind the scenes there are countless years of hard work.

I first heart 'S.O.B.' on Philadelphia's Alternative Radio 104.5.  The DJ hyped the track.  He said it was "HOT" and taking over the radio.  I liked it.   It reminded me of the late Nick Curran and the lowlife's.  It was catchy with a Rockabilly feel to it.  My concern was that it seemed to me to be one of those tracks the I would love at first but then soon grow to dislike.  In the meantime, I would turn it up and sing along as long as I could.

A few weeks later I realized that although I subscribe to streaming services I hadn't listened to the full album.  I guess I didn't have much faith in it.  I dialed it up and 'I Need Never Get Old' cam on.  I was instantly blown away.

Nathaniel Rateliff has a massive, soulful, expressive voice.  This song had a vintage feel yet it was fresh.  It was soul and R&B that was new without being re-imagined.  Almost as if someone had discovered a long lost unheard classic from the 50's.  It had a feel that so many of my favorite artists over the last five years bring to the table.  Artists like St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Allen Stone, Mayer Hawthorne.  All of which I have seen in concert and all of them were even better live than on disc.  There is something about a live horn section that is never quite captured on tape.  It was settled.  I needed to know who this guy was and when could I see him live.

Finding out who someone is these days is the easy part.  I was expecting to find out that Nathaniel Rateliff was new to the scene and was an over night success.  Part of this was true.  He was becoming an overnight success to the mainstream but he was hardly new to the scene.

When one decides they are going to become big on the folk scene you read stories about them going to NYC, LA, or Nashville.  Nathaniel chose Denver.   Denver by the way of Missouri.  It wasn't for the music scene at first.  Missionary work was his calling at the age of 18.  He became popular on the Denver scene and released his first album in 2007.

I had never heard of Nathaniel Rateliff even though he had garnered praise from the likes of the New York Times and  He had toured with the Dr. Dog and has been on the same bill as The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons. The turning point would be the formation of The Night Sweats.

The formation of a band to play soul and R&B.  To sing of love and pain and sex.  The roll their sleeves up and evoke the spirits of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke.  It is only fitting that they landed on Stax records.

Now the hard part.  Seeing them live.  They were billed at Johnny Brenda's, My favortie, intimate, concert venue in Philly.  Good news, right?  Wrong.  The show sold out so quickly that it was moved to the TLA on the famous South Street in Philly.  A bigger venue but still intimate.  Better news?  No.  That show was sold out too.  This seemed to be the trend.  Tickets for all of his shows were selling for hundreds of dollars across the country on Stubhub.  (Note: Tickets for the show listed for $15.00.  When we speak about crimes against artist that is a true sin).  As the shows get closer the tickets would increase and sell out across all of the resale ticket sites.  I was fortunate enough to get a photo pass and a ticket.  Now the big question would be will I be blown away or disappointed in the live show after falling in love with the album.  I was soon to find out.

We arrived at the TLA shortly after the doors opened.  Saturday nights on South Street are always crazy.  Tonight was no different.  I was shocked that for a sell out crowd there were only a handful of concert goers there vying for a good spot.  The TLA is standing room only but to be honest there is not really a bad spot in the house.  As an old movie theater it does have a sloped floor to help with viewing.

It is always important for to me to support the artist.  Especially when I am comped tickets.  I bought my T-shirt and limited edition concert poster.  I had a feeling this night would be legendary and this memento would help commemorate it.

The doors opened at 7:00 and the opening act was going on at 8:00.  Tonight's opening act would be Land Lines.  This Denver based trio featured a cello, electric organ and a drummer.

They graced us with sonically lush and atmospheric compositions.   It was a mellow choice for an opening act for a headlining band that I was hoping would being the heat.  Perhaps that was the point.

Lead vocalist, Martina Grbac, was extremely gracious and humble.  She mentioned that not only was this her first visit to Philadelphia, it was her first visit to the East Coast.  Their set was well recieved but the crowd was restless for the main event.

At 9:00 the band took the stage minus Nathaniel as Jesse from Radio 104.5 introduced the band.

When Nathaniel took the stage the band went crazy.  It was an interesting mix of young and old.  hipsters and grandparents.  The Night Sweats sound was universal.  It appealed to countless generations who were either reliving their past or experiencing the sound for the first time.   By the end of the night they would be dancing together in unison.

They opened with 'I Need Never Get Old'.  It was very fitting and hit me just like it did when I first played their album.

The band was settled in to one joint groove.  The organs and horns add such a legendary feel to the music.  It was dirty and gritty.  Everything that Soul should be.

I had a feeling, at this point, that I was in for more than I bargained for.  Not every concert gives you this feeling but tonight I had it.  At one point I got chills.  I fastened my seat belt and got ready for the ride.

They rolled through their set with fire.  The crowd went wild with each of their favorite tracks.  There seemed to be a momentum building with each song.  Tunes like 'Howling at Nothing' kept adding to that.

Nathaniel sang of heartbreak and demons with such feeling that you wanted to console him.  You felt your own heartbreaking for him.  When the band broke into 'Shake' the audience was in a sexual trance.  It felt as if our hips were all moving in unison.

The band was tight and clearly enjoying each other.  Even their harmonies were inspiring.  They ripped though songs we new and even some we didn't.  To me, magic happens at a show when the groove takes you somewhere you don't expect it.  The decision to take a guitar solo a few extra measures or two throw in an organ solo where is doesn't belong.  This was the journey we were on.  The final resting spot was coming and the audience knew the final stop.

After Nathaniel introduced us to his band mates we were asked to sing along with their next song.  'S.O.B.' began to play and all hell broke loose.

This was the interesting part of the night for me.  This was the moment the crowd was waiting for but it was the only time during the set that I felt as though the band gave the vibe that this song was actually work for them.  As if to say, "This song...agian?".  It didn't come across in the music but it came across in their mannerisms.  Nevertheless, it rocked.  The song stopped short and the lights cam on.  The band said good night.  Nathaniel left the stage only to come back on stage with a drink and continue the song.  After taking us on their voyage they said goodnight.  The crowd was not having it.  They started singing the melody to 'S.O.B.' invoking them to reappear one by one as if a seance was occurring.  We were treated to a cover of The Bands 'Shape I'm In'.  That song turned into a reprise of 'S.O.B.' before the band said their final goodnight and the lights came on.  I waited around hoping to meet the band but it wasn't meant to be.  I managed to get a set list but after seeing the disappointment in the fan next to me I took a snapshot of it and gave it to her.  It seemed only fitting to share the wealth.

I prayed that this should would not let me down and it didn't.  The Night Sweats delivered song after song.  It was a magical night in so many ways.  One that will live in my memory forever.  That is when you know the band  did their job.  When the night is no longer about a song or a show.  It was about everything involved.  It was an emotion.  A feeling.  One that you chase but rarely catch.  Tonight it was mine and I will never forget.

See you at the next show!


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