Nathan Rateliff and the Night Sweats
Greek Theater, Berkeley
August 13, 2022
Photos by Tom Dellinger.
In the 2014 music tour documentary Austin to Boston, Gill Landry said of Nathaniel Rateliff, “He’s one of only a handful of people that I know personally who can translate their pain so clearly through their voice and song.” The sentiment revealed Rateliff’s superpower, the ability to, with soul and expertise, craft songs that reflect joy and pain, heartache, and love. When Rateliff paired with the Night Sweats, releasing their first self-titled album in 2015, the lyrical mastery collided with their contemporary rock’n’roll sound, crafting musical magic that launched the group into immediate fame. With a massive tour stopping at The Greek in Berkeley, Nathanial Rateliff and the Night Sweats shook the night, their songs restoring lost emotions all while driving the audience into a dance frenzy.
On a brisk August night, a crowd gathered eagerly inside the Greek. Every seat was filled, from the rocky benches to the plush grass no seat was left empty. As the lights dimmed, everyone stirred with excitement, hollering as the Night Sweats bounded onto the stage. With enough members to fill a small D3 football team, the band is an impressive and eclectic mix of brilliant musicians. Clad in a khaki overcoat, Rateliff’s crisp but gravelly voice fills the night air, the show launching with ‘Shoe Boot.’
After the bombastic intro, Rateliff and the Night Sweats continue with a handful of songs including ‘Look it Here,’ ‘You Worry Me,’ and ‘I’ll Be Damned.’ Bathed in red and gold lights, the set moves from rock infused tunes to outlaw funk, each song dripping with love and sorrow, but also with ecstatic energy that lights up the crowd. Fan favourite ‘Survivor’ is an obvious hit, the crowd screaming along as Rateliff’s voice booms, echoing against the rock and trees surrounding the venue.
Grabbing a guitar Rateliff launches into swingy, ‘Baby I Lost My Way (But I’m Going Home)’ and ‘So Put Out.’ As the set moves the band slows the tempo down, ‘Love Me Till I’m Gone’ pausing the frenzied funk with its ballad-like pace. As the lights bloom and fade into white, ‘Face Down in the Moment’ continues the slower tempo; the type of song that makes you reflect as the sound waves wash over you, the tune bringing a fountain of feelings as the crowd sits in the presence of the song. The band departs into the dark recesses of the stage, and Rateliff and a few band members launch into ‘And It’s Still Alright.’ The stripped back song is the emotional centre of the set, drawing the crowd into reverent silence.
The moment of silent contemplation is quickly jolted, Rateliff and the Night Sweats launch into ‘Hey Mama,’ everyone jumping up to dance with the familiar tune. Laughing echoes around the stadium as people joyfully groove and sway, the band leading the joyous dance party. Rateliff commands the full stage, running back and forth and reaching out to the crowd as ‘Out on the Weekend’ and ‘Coolin’ Out’ continue the party. The night ends with a long instrumental that breaks into ‘I Never Get Old,’ the audience call and response fuelling their connection to the band. After a short lull Rateliff and the Night Sweats saunter back to encore with ‘The Future,’ ‘S.O.B,’ and ‘Love Don’t.’
It seems to be an impossible task to, with words, accurately sum up all that is a Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats gig. Their songs are powerful and poignant, ridiculously energetic and dance inducing. Their music takes flight as they traverse a stage, bringing new depth and liveliness to each record. At the Greek, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats wowed the crowd, their set a perfect mixture of poignancy and party.