Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats + Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 12th April 2018

Nathaniel Rateliff managed a remarkable feat for an artist whose name is not part of the musical mainstream. He sold out 3 nights at Shepherd’s Bush, which means 6000 people turned up to watch what surely must have been one of the best run of gigs held there for a long time. Rateliff was supported by long term Gospel Americana band Slim Cessna’s Auto Club who enthusiastically warmed up the crowd with a lively set which featured seven band members including pedal steel guitar, saxophone, bass and drums as well as three guitarists.  Slim himself was a tall and rangy figure sporting a full 10 gallon hat and was very comfortable on stage.  He knew just what to do to get everyone into a party mood and it was lovely to see Rateliff himself join them for their invigorating finale.

With everybody ready to roll it was not long before the Night Sweats, comprising a full three piece horn section, Hammond organ, drums and two guitarists, brought the evening up to full speed with their Rhythm and Blues set.  Rateliff, in his trademark hat, danced and strutted his stuff to great effect.  Many of the tracks were from his new album ‘Tearing at the Seams’ which were well received despite being relatively unknown material.  He then brought the mood right down for a slow mid set which contrasted beautifully and reminded me of both Chris Stapleton and Jamey Johnson with the quiet intensity of these ballads.

Things were soon back to full speed and, sounding like an Americana version of St Paul and The Broken Bones, the band brought things to a remarkably rousing close with their big hit ‘SOB’.  Rateliff conducted the audience in a master class of call and response and even managed to get everybody down on their haunches only to bring them back up again with his resounding call for somebody to get him a drink! The cry for an encore was something that I have never seen before over many hundreds of gigs, consisting of the audience not applauding or cheering but lustily singing back the refrain from ‘SOB’ until the band reappeared on stage.  A quick three songs later and it was all over with everyone leaving with grins on their faces and on an absolute high.

Rateliff has reinvented himself a few times during his career but since forming the Night Sweats he has brought his music and appeal to another level and I can only imagine that any promoter will be delighted to bring him back to a much bigger venue next tour around.  Anybody reading this who hasn’t been to see him should not miss him under any circumstances.

All pictures by Freddie Ahad

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