Few bands are as deft at mixing soul, rock, folk, country and blues as Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. The Denver combo has proved their bonafides across three albums, not to mention their smokin’ Austin City Limits debut back in 2015. Armed with their excellent LP The Future and an upcoming ACL Fest sure to set Zilker Park on fire, the octet returned to our stage with a powerhouse performance.
“It’s good to be back,” Rateliff remarked before the band went right into “Look It Here,” an effervescent soul stomp from the group’s 2015 debut. The group then touched down on their second record Tearing At the Seams for “You Worry Me,” a less frenetic but no less soulful pop tune. The combo of pop hooks and R&B arrangements continued with “I’m On Your Side,” the first tune from The Future, and “I’ll Be Damned,” with Rateliff putting down his guitar to glide across the stage with his trademark footwork. The band slowed things down to mid-tempo for “Survivor,” the warm R&B tune shot through with guitarist Luke Mossman’s psychedelic distortion and Rateliff’s reverb-heavy rhythm chops. The group shifted to a minor key and added some percussive background “ah’s” for “Baby I’ve Lost My Way,” keeping the vibe going for the surly “So Put Out.”
After thanking both Austin City Limits and the crowd for their support, Rateliff strapped an acoustic guitar back on for “Wasting Time,” which recalled early 70s Van Morrison. The leader then sat down at the Wurlitzer electric piano for “A Little Honey,” a horn-heavy burner in the tradition of Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. “Love Me Until I’m Gone” reached even further back, recapturing a R&B groove not heard since the early sixties, if not the late fifties, and bringing it back to the twenty-first century. Rateliff then brought out the three-piece horn section of baritone saxist Andreas Wild, tenor saxophonist Jeff Dazey and trumpeter Daniel Hardaway for a harmonized intro to the dramatic soul ballad “Face Down in the Moment.”
Rateliff stripped the band down to himself, Mossman and keyboardist Mark Shusterman for the exquisite “And It’s Still Alright,” the reassuring title track to Rateliff’s 2020 solo album that never got its due thanks to the pandemic cutting its tour short. The band returned for the warm ballad “Redemption,” a low-key stunner from the soundtrack to the film Palmer, then gave a shout-out to the mothers of a few bandmembers with the country-inflected “Hey Mama.” The tempo went revving back up for “Coolin’ Out,” an old-fashioned soul banger with a sizzling baritone sax solo that definitely did not follow its title’s advice. That led almost straight into the set’s finale, a one-two punch featuring an unnamed crowd-pumping vamp and the strutting, audience-pleasing “I Need Never Grow Old,” tossing his Telecaster offstage and exiting to wild applause.
Of course, the Night Sweats returned to the stage, evoking some Harvest-era Neil Young and the R&B side of the Band with the title track to The Future. Rateliff and the band ended the show with the upbeat rouser “Love Don’t,” leaving the audience happy and exhausted. It was a great rock & soul show, good ‘n’ greasy, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station as part of our Season 48.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats perform on Austin City Limits, Oct. 6, 2022. Photos by Scott Newton.