Review: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats at the Olympia Theatre

The beautiful Olympia Theatre played host to the grooviest rockabilly party Dublin has ever seen. The men in charge of it all? Nathaniel Rateliff and his masterful band, the Night Sweats.

Often at gigs the headliners give the support act a show out and a cheer from the audience for doing their set. Matthew Logan Vasquez of Delta Spirit was the opening artist on the night and instead of just a thank you he got a personal welcome on to the stage from Nathaniel himself. It’s not often the frontman does the introducing and it shows his laid back nature.

Vasquez opened the show with a smile, a wink and a quirky story about Mexican moonshine. Chilled acoustic vibes for the first four songs of his set slowly cuddled up to the still chatting crowd. Lyrics about a friend dying in a plane crash and descriptions of modern war being “like Vietnam without the grass” stuck out over bluesy strumming patterns.

The crowd warmed up as Vasquez launched into his last acoustic song before once again being joined by Rateliff and his full band. That was like flicking a switch. The crowd roared at the sight of the bearded headliner but the moment Vasquez picked up his white electric telecaster all eyes and ears were glued to him. Old fashioned rock and roll nearly brought the venue’s soundsystem to its knees with shrieking guitar solos and shriekier yet melodic vocals from Vasquez. The crowd had now fully embraced the man’s songs and his charm.

Rateliff and the band left the stage quickly while Vasquez thanked the crowd and scampered off himself shortly after. About a half an hour later the men of the hour stepped into the spotlight. A rehearsed funk jam opened their set. First the lead guitar, then bass, brass, keys and drums welcomed Nathaniel Rateliff center stage to start their set off proper with the opening track from their self titled album. I Need Never Get Old got the crowd dancing straight away and by God did they know how to dance. Rockabilly music hit the town and the town hit back harder.

The thunderous applause as the opener ended was met with a twinkle in Rateliff’s eye as they launched into Howling at Nothing. It began with an improvised honky tonk style keyboard solo from the man on stage right, flawlessly transitioning into the track’s groovy bassline.

The song’s live tempo was unrecognisable from its the middle-of-the-road studio recording and the ordinarily slow and smooth song Time was also played at double speed.

Not that it made any difference to the band. Rateliff didn’t stumble his words once and the brass section gave their lungs worth in a performance strong enough to rival even the legendary E Street Band.

Time went out on a big crescendo then total silence. The keys twinkled along with the stage lights, brass noises rose sharply from their brief respite and the drums brought the chorus in once again for a double time reprise. The balconies above the stage seemed as though they would collapse from the foot stamping. The song ended with a brief “go raibh maith agat” from Rateliff.

Closing the set, the Night Sweats’ standout single, S.O.B, brought crowds clapping along to a crescendo. The band went all in to set the audience alight one last time. The embers of their performance burned after they gave their goodbyes and left the stage. The crowd echoed the chorus and after a full five minutes at least, Nathaniel Rateliff and Night Sweats gave their encore.

The drummer returned onstage and with the command, “on my count” out ran the rest of them. The trumpet gave a solo over the combined beat of the drums and clapping before the final chorus and the biggest finish of the night.

The sold out crowd got their money’s worth in an epic night. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats have ascended to the top of the rockabilly world and with live shows with that much of a Mardi Gras atmosphere, they’ll be at it for a long time yet.

Glen Murphy

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