Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats – The Barbican, York, Thursday June 27, 2024

Review and photos by Gareth John

THIS evening’s sell-out concert was eagerly awaited as fans arrived early to see the excellent William The Conqueror opening before the Grammy-nominated Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats took to the stage.

With multiple TV appearances, including Later…with Jools Holland, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and The Late Show, Rateliff and his horn-flanked band The Night Sweats have witnessed a slow burning rise to success over the past decade.

Now regarded as one of the most recognisable new forces in contemporary rock ’n’ roll, Rateliff sings of personal challenges, divorce, death and world woes with his charismatic and Pentecostal preacher-like personae serving as a vehicle for the band’s combustible mix of soul, rock, country, and blues.

With this eclectic mix, he and the band have firmly established a reputation for ecstatic live performances stacked with energy and fun whilst their studio recordings continue to reveal a rich quality of songwriting and production.

Tonight, donning a slick suit and light tan cowboy boots, Rateliff dominated the stage with his Little Richard-style dance moves, tambourine swaggers and energetic guitar-playing. His confidence matched his booming voice throughout as The Night Sweats, comprised of organist, a three-strong horn section, drummer, guitarist and bassist, provided the backbone for Rateliff to showcase his offerings. Despite his self-pitying songwriting and mood, tonight’s setlist at The Barbican is predominantly party-style mixed with heartfelt moments of stripped-back melancholy.

Drawing from three album releases to date, the set opens with the bluesy Suffer Me and fan favourite Need Never Get Old followed by I’m On Your Side and Survivor, the latter two from 2020 album The Future. New release David and Goliath is introduced by Rateliff on piano, a song which draws comparisons to Elton John in style and which is warmly received by tonight’s crowd. The band presence is dynamic as the eight-piece shifts to a trio before the solo Rateliff performs the beautiful Center of Me with just piano and vocal.

Tonight, we are treated to five tracks from the imminent fourth album including the excellent Time Makes Fools of Us All, a song which almost became the title track until Rateliff decided that there was enough negativity in the world without him adding to it with cynical album titles. Other highlights tonight include the radio hit S.O.B., one of several tracks which saw the crowd clapping, dancing and swaying along and throughout.

Rateliff performed a masterclass in showmanship, his style at times a blend of Jack Black, Counting Crows and Johnny Cash. The penultimate track of the main set sees a respectful nod to Springsteen with a wonderful rendition of Dancin’ In The Dark which sees The Night Sweats hitting all the right notes. The evening ends with the bluesy Love Don’t, the audience dancing and clapping until the very end. Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats provided tonight’s York audience with a real treat and their new release is likely to add to their growing popularity.