It’s a new era on my blog and I am so excited to kick things off with a concert recap!
I’ve hinted at my love for Nathaniel Rateliff and Lord Huron a few times on this blog. They are two of my very favorite artists. So I geeked out quite a bit when I learned that the two would be sharing the bill at a show shortly after my time as a missionary ended, in a city only about an hour from my hometown, no less. Talk about a dream concert! I bought a ticket and prayed that I would be able to make it to the show.
Sure enough, I arrived home from West Virginia on a Tuesday and went to the concert the next day. It had been nearly a year since I had been to a secular concert (I went to a few Christian ones as a missionary), but I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome-back to the concert scene.
Opening for Nathaniel Rateliff and Lord Huron and rounding out an eclectic mix of musical stylings at the show was Caroline Rose and her band. Her rockabilly sound isn’t too dissimilar from some of Lord Huron’s swaggering tunes, but her music also has a healthy dose of punk rock attitude, enough to set her apart from the night’s headliner. Check out her recent NPR Tiny Desk concert to get an idea of her sound, then imagine it amplified and electrified ten-fold to fill a larger venue. (I laughed a little when the video started because she wore the same red jacket to the show as she’s wearing in the video.)
Up next was Nathaniel Rateliff and his band, the Night Sweats. I’d seen Rateliff in concert before; he tagged along for Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road stopover festival in Dixon, Illinois in 2012. His sound back then was along the lines of introspective acoustic folk. Not long ago he ditched that persona, formed a new band, and adopted a gospel-soul sound. His band’s debut album is dynamite, but I was not at all prepared for the energy that Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats would bring live. They kicked things off with the first song on their album, “I Need Never Get Old.” Everybody but Rateliff took the stage and started playing and the crowd erupted into a thunderous roar as Rateliff shimmied and danced his way to the microphone. From there, he and the Night Sweats led the crowd in an hour-long gospel-soul revival/dance party, complete with smoldering solos on electric guitar, organ, and horns. Rateliff’s previous career as a folk musician was brilliant and understated, but he seemed right at home in his new soul outfit. His joy and energy were apparent and infectious, and his burly, bellowing voice was perfect for the long, howling notes of his new tunes. He and the Night Sweats were just having a damn good time, and so was the crowd. He had the sold-out audience wrapped around his finger for the whole set. They loved him. Unfortunately I, being in the first row of seats behind the very packed pit, was unable to see much from his set without standing on my tip-toes, but I was having such a good time that I didn’t care much. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats are a party live. They’re a must-see.
Lord Huron, the headliners, took the stage last. By that point, my crowd anxiety and the smell of booze wafting from the pit had prompted me to relocate to the back of the theater (God bless GA concerts). From there, I could see that the crowd was quite a bit smaller than it was for Rateliff, and it unfortunately only continued to shrink as Lord Huron kept playing. By the end of their set, at least on the first level, only about one-third of Rateliff’s crowd had stuck around. I guess a good deal of the audience came mostly for Rateliff. But Lord Huron’s set was excellent. They started off with a few slower songs, which is perhaps where they lost so much of their audience, but before long they were playing their more upbeat songs, most of which were from their most recent album, 2015’s Strange Trails. Lord Huron usually gets labeled as a folk band, and I’d say that’s accurate, but their set showed that folk doesn’t always equal mellow and slow. Higher-energy tunes like “Meet Me in the Woods,” “Hurricane,” and “The World Ender” were amplified by a stellar lighting display, hefty electric guitar and drums, and lead singer Ben Schneider’s rock and roll swagger. Lord Huron is known for their airy, nature-inspired sound, and while they did intro some of their songs with nature sounds (running water, singing birds, blowing wind) and use an image of a forest as their backdrop, seeing them live almost makes you forget their signature sound. They shed that indie folk persona and embrace a more rock and roll feel. And, like Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, they were having a great time letting loose and rocking out. It was a shame to see so many people walking out during their set, but those that stayed looked like they were having a great time and always showed their appreciation at the end of each song with hearty cheers.
Given the different styles and energy levels of each artist, and the way the crowd dispersed as the headliner played, it would have made better sense to have Lord Huron open for Nathaniel Rateliff, in my opinion. It appears that the opener was better-known than the headliner that night! Regardless of who opened for who, of all the concerts I’ve been to, the choice to pair a gospel-soul artist with an indie folk rock band made for a truly memorable evening.
What about you? Have you seen any artists live lately? Tell me about it in the comments!