There’s always a touch of deja vu about going to gigs when you get to my age, particularly when seeing a band again that you first saw many years ago. But it’s unusual when a set from a new band revives memories of another gig from fifty years ago. Such was the case with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats at the O2 Academy in Bristol last night.
Their latest album, Tearing at the Seams, featured high in my 2018 Album of the Year review, so we have been looking forward to this gig, and they did not disappoint. The album, on the Stax label, brought back memories of bands from the sixties who graced this fabulous brand, and that sound was here in spades, perhaps with a hint of Van Morrison in places. Seeing all eight of them on stage complete with horn section and a genuine vintage Hammond, rotating speaker box and all, recalled the UK soul bands that made a brief appearance during the mid-sixties – I recall one from Bristol who I think were called the West Coast Showband that we saw around the area at small venues.
Several toured nationally, including Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band – yes that’s the same Geno immortalised by Dexy’s Midnight Runners in the early ‘eighties – who came to Bath Pavilion a couple of times. Regular readers will be aware of me banging-on about that venue previously, and the O2 Academy is of a similar nature bringing you up close and personal with the band wherever you are; you can even stand on the stairs to get a good view if you get there early enough when it’s a sell-out, like last night. We normally do that, but last night everybody was there early, so we ended up on the balcony, where the sound is just as good, but vision can be a bit obscured. Nevertheless 21st Century ‘elf ‘n safety’ made sure that all 1500 of us had a degree of personal space.
But that didn’t apply in the ‘sixties. I’m not sure that the Pavilion had a ‘capacity’, other than the number of tickets that could be physically sold on the night, but I would guess around a thousand was about the max. It was Geno’s 1968 gig at ‘The Pav’ that was one of the most memorable nights there. The car park (OK the scrap of wasteland alongside) was so full with scooters that there wasn’t even room for a ‘greaser’ to kick one of them over (as if they would have dared), and the place was completely rammed – probably at least double the normal crowd.
The terms ‘cheek by jowel’ and ‘swinging from the rafters’ sum it up – well maybe not quite the latter but there were probably twenty people jammed up on the windowsill of each of the large arched windows hanging on for dear life to get a view of the band, about the only place you could get one beyond the first few rows. And the place was jumping – not necessarily by personal choice – from the point the band came on stage until they left. In fact, I would be surprised if the building hadn’t moved on its foundations that night!
It was similar last night, with the crowd joining-in throughout. We managed to grab one of the few seats on the (reinforced) bench at the back of the main balcony, so we were able to stand on that for the gig. Even so, it was difficult to see the band, other than for their hats – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many worn by a band. By the third song I had managed to count six including five stetsons, one of which was black. Based on the old Saturday matinee cowboy movies, I suggested that had to be the bad-ass of the band, so was probably the bass player (it was). The non-conformist was the bass-sax player wearing a particularly-natty peaky-blinders cap. And if you’re wondering why you can only see four stetsons in the picture at the top, it is because by the time I had found a way to the front to take it, the guy on the right had thrown his into the crowd.
The set was an absolute blinder, featuring a fairly even mixture of tracks from Tearing at the Seams, and their eponymous first album. I don’t have that first album (yet) but the tracks sounded even more soulful than the current one, a fact I was assured is the case by Mat, the guy stood next to us last night. He has been a fan for some time, and first saw them live a couple of years ago. It also turned-out we had something else in common – we are both bloggers. Mat’s subject is wine, something I have been known to indulge in ‘occasionally’, so I shall be checking his recommendations regularly on justaquickslurp.co.uk (what a great url!) – definitely worth a read.
So, if you haven’t seen Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats live yet, I really recommend you grab tickets next time they’re available. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look like being soon in the UK, as their last date here is on Saturday in London, and that’s sold-out as well. After that they are in Europe, then off to Australia and New Zealand, but if you’re lucky enough to be in their home state of Colorado this August, they have two dates at the incredible open-air venue in the mountains at Red Rocks, which I have no doubt will be simply amazing.
To see what’s available from Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats on Spotify, click the logo below:
If you want to download or stream any of the recent albums by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats, links are provided in the following table:
|Tearing at the Seams|
|Live at Red Rocks|
|A Little Something More From|
|Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats|