Nathaniel Rateliff was born and raised in St. Louis, but he is very much a Denver guy. Having moved to the “City of Quitters” at the youthful age of eighteen he found early acclaim with his Born in the Flood project. They performed at the Westword Music Showcase and released a full length LP in 2007. Despite that recognition Rateliff continued his artistic journey by taking a more serious and somber tone with his songwriting. He struggled to find his audience, some of which was documented in the film Austin to Boston. As a last ditch effort to save his music career he assembled the Night Sweats with the help of long time collaborator Joseph Pope III. An irreverent tune goes viral and the rest is history.
One thing is certain when you see Rateliff perform live he’s giving you everything he’s got. The man is a music machine dancing and belting his way through the set. He smashes tambourines on mic stands all while busting a move that would be the envy of James Brown. Their December Denver shows have become tradition and it would appear that The Mission Ballroom is and will be the home of these shows for the foreseeable future. Speaking of which these shows came fresh off the heels of their November LP release entitled The Future. This album is the third with the Night Sweats and continues the blend of modern and Motown and pays homage to the R&B that fueled their early output.
The show began with a monumental performance from The Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a historic institution kept alive by the Jaffe family for more than 50 years. Drenched in the free flowing spirt of Nola jazz this band spreads the sound to the masses who might not make it down to The Big Easy. They played for just short of an hour trading solos and generally wowing the audience. The set was primarily an instrumental exercise with a few traditional numbers tossed in for good measure. In short it was a great start to the night with exceptional musicianship and stellar improvisations on full display.
Nathaniel Rateliff emerged from the darkness of the backstage with the Night Sweats in tow. From his humble beginnings as a dedicated singer songwriter he has blossomed into a transfixing performer who commands your attention. Early in his set he ripped into a heartfelt “I Just Want To Thank You.” I think is a sincere nod to his fans at a time that has been hard on everyone. If you listen to his recent release Red Rocks 2020 during which he and his band performed a Covid-era concert at the famed venue without anyone in attendance you can hear the yearning in his voice between songs. He needs this as much as the audience does.
We were treated to a number of songs off the new album including a delicate and beautiful “Baby I Got Your Number” and a bluesy rendition of “I’d Be Waiting.” Rateliff hopped on the keys for a few before inviting up the boys in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to add their chops to an unbelievable “Hey Mama.” The fresh track “Survivor” feels like an anthem for the pandemic or possibly a response to it. The full band’s prowess was demonstrated on the razor tight transition between “Coolin’ Out” and “The Intro.” They closed an incredible set of music with the now classic “I Need Never Get Old.”
Mr. Rateliff and The Night Sweats returned for a monumental three song encore again with members of the opener that included “The Future” into “S.O.B.” and ending with “Love Don’t.” Needless to say Rateliff and his bandmates put on a hell of a show. Having released two studio albums, a live record and a solo project all since 2018, Rateliff’s creative output is at an all time high. It’s been interesting to see the evolution of the live performance. They have become top tier performers worthy of a wider audience. If you are looking for music with a deeper message and more soul, then look no further than Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats.