The Powerstation in Auckland, NZ was tearing at the seams when Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats launched their brand of upbeat soulful sound for the first time in New Zealand. And it was about time!!!
I called it in my earlier interview with Rateliff when I said this concert would be the gig of the year and I can say, hand on heart, my crystal ball was bang on.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats brought their brand of Americana and vintage rhythm & blues that was as infectious as the recent measles epidemic. There is much to talk about, but the night started off with local act The Miltones.
The 5-piece Auckland band kept the punters well and truly engaged throughout their short set. The strong vocals of lead singer Milly Tabak, ably supported by Liam Pratt (guitar), Guy Harrison (keyboards), Chris Marshall (bass) and Tome Broome (drums), delivered some cracker tunes and are a very polished unit.
Starting with Bye Bye Baby, Milly sounded a veteran well beyond her years and the song had whispers of some of the great singers of the Americana genre. Straight away the growing crowd got caught up with the catchy tune and this was followed by Liven Up the Night, which was true to the title.
Kicking down a gear slightly and a bit more broody, Running With Your Man created a little more atmosphere and allowed Harrison to show off his wares on the ivories as the song moved into an all band jam with hints of Patti Smith creeping through. All in all, a great way to kick off the night and a perfect introduction to what was about to come.
A short break followed and then the 8-piece ensemble known as The Night Sweats flowed on to the stage, warming up the crowd and stretching their legs before welcoming Rateliff on, along with whoops and hollers from the near-capacity crowd, straight away with Shoe Boot off their latest album Tearing at the Seams.
The band slipped into gear immediately, settling in nicely like some good old boys wanting to have some fun on a Friday night. Having such an array of instruments, the likes of which I haven’t seen since a special night with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings a few moons ago, The Night Sweats in particular shook the roof right off the Powerstation from the beginning of the gig and it never really settled back down until the last note was played.
Be There Again, off their latest album, quickly followed after a brief welcome, cheeky smile and a nod from Rateliff. Knowing most of his tracks and having a hint of what was going to come next, for some reason it made me think about the subtle art of making a mixed tape, as quoted by John Cusack off the cult movie, High Fidelity: “You have to kick it off with a killer and then take it up a notch but be careful not to blow your wad”.
With only two albums and an EP to their name, I knew most of the tracks would be running on high octane, which made me wonder how on earth they were going to maintain the pace for the rest of the night. It was quite simple really: they just flicked the gearstick into overdrive and took the whole audience for the ride of their lives. Not for the faint-hearted, but an experience many will remember for years to come I suspect. This was a perfect example of what true live music is about: never the same exactly but a moment captured in time forever.
There was a great sprinkling of tracks from both albums with Look It and I Did It coming of their self-titled debut album, which really was a nod to influences from Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. Say It Louder followed and we slipped back to more of a cruise on a long highway to happiness. Seriously if this song, along with Howling At Nothing doesn’t make one smile, better check and see if they have a pulse. This feeling wasn’t just mine either. Looking around at the crowd, the joy and happiness of hearing music from such a talented group was just food for the soul.
The sound crew have to get a nod here as well. These guys care about the sound as much as the songs themselves and it really made a difference, especially with two types of saxophones, a trumpet, a variety of keyboards, drums, bass and two guitars all requiring love and attention as each was highlighted during the night. An example of this was when the brass section grouped together at the front of the stage and played a lovely wee interlude which sounded brilliant, clear and clean, and then transitioned nicely into an Otis Redding-sounding Baby I Know.
The other instrument of the night was the clear soulful and sometimes gospel vocals of Nathaniel Rateliff. I could almost picture him in his younger years playing in front of the gospel church on a Sunday morning. It would have been a treat for the congregation then, just as it was for the followers that came along to hear him tonight.
Before we knew it, we were on the home stretch and the accelerator was pushed to the floor with the two biggest singalong bangers in a row. My favourite and track of the night, I Need Never Get Old was startling and made the wooden floor of the Powerstation bounce more than it had for some time. This song captured the essence of what made Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats such a pleasure to see.
Then, while the crowd was still catching their breath, came S.O.B. There was more thigh slapping and hand clapping that I have seen for ages and the crowd lifted the band to another level, perhaps surprising them just a little by the total interaction that was created.
Then they were off. The punters were not having any of that though and started the Woooo Whoooha off again from S.O.B - from my angle near the stage, I could see the band peeking around the side, a little bit in awe of the crowd reaction.
I’ll Be Damned, the now classic Hey Mama, and Tearing at the Seams finished the night off nicely and given the age and diversity of the crowd, it may have been met with just a little bit of relief when the last notes faded off to the loud cheering and admiration of the assembled throng.
So yes I am biased and yes I am going to see this wonderful band again whenever they come back to our cloudy shores. If you see someone today with a perpetual smile and complaining of face ache you know where they had been last night.