It's always a pleasure to see an accomplished band play to a sold-out audience in a small club. When it's a Soul band with a Hammond organ, sax, trumpet, and all the trimmings, it's best described as a joyful celebration. At a guess, Patterns, a basement venue opposite the seafront in Brighton's Kemptown district, holds no more than 250 to 300 people at a push. On Friday night, it was packed to see Nathaniel Rateliff and his seven-piece band the Night Sweats as their single 'S.O.B.' continues to gain international momentum. Within minutes of taking to the stage, which sits just inches above the dance floor, Rateliff had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand.
That wasn't a sure-fire guarantee though. The 37-year-old admitted to us pre-show that he'd been battling a throat infection and was beginning to feel exhausted from his recent travels. At that point, he was accompanied by a warm lemon drink to ease his vocal chords, by the time he was on stage he'd brought his 'A' game in stunning form. Flanked by the impressive collection of musicians that he's assembled into the Night Sweats, Rateliff burst into a blistering version of album opener 'I Need Never Get Old' to rapturous applause. Any concerns as to whether his voice would last the show were put to bed at this point.
He's an enigmatic stage presence, with his trademark hat and impressive beard, but beyond the charisma he exudes, Rateliff was surprisingly humble. Admitting that his previous shows in mainland Europe had struggled to get people to dance, Rateliff seemed determined to rectify that by toasting the crowd on a number of occasions and encouraging audience participation. To his credit, he succeeded with little effort as the crowd got stuck into a set predominantly populated, as you'd expect, with material from the band's recent debut album. That he was accepting drinks from the front row and ordering whiskey for the band from the bar demonstrated the intimate nature of the performance, despite the glorious wall of sound coming from the stage.
There were surprises in the set list of course, a couple of tracks that had been recorded in the studio, but omitted from the album, were nestled neatly into the middle of a performance which lasted for around an hour and a quarter. Rateliff took the chatter at the back of the room in his stride, building to dramatic and heartfelt moments on tracks such as 'Thank You' and his personal favourite 'I've Been Failing'. In those moments, he held the attention of the entire room. Hit single 'S.O.B.' was deliberately written to close shows and it was duly unveiled at the end of the main set. The handclaps and sing-a-long elements really were the icing on the cake, prompting the crowd to continue singing until the band returned to the stage.
Cleverly, Rateliff weaves that reaction into his encores, with the band resuming the song and then jamming into a cover of The Band's 'The Shape I'm In', a portion of 'S.O.B.' then makes a final appearance before the poignant 'What I Need', which can be found on Rateliff's pre-album EP. It's that song in particular that sends shivers down your spine, as Rateliff and his band seem to channel the ghost of Otis Redding for a beautiful finale. If you've never seen a proper Soul band perform, or even if you have just a passing interest in Rateliff's studio work, you are urged to seek the Night Sweats out while they are on the road. There's something special that happens during small shows like this, and if they continue to receive the praise they have been, this band will be filling much larger rooms in no time at all.
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