December 17, 2016 was a marquee day for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Don Strasburg, Vice President of AEG, initiated a ceremony before the show by introducing the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper spoke on the importance of the band and gave a proclamation while he prompted the crowd to intermittently shout, “Whereas!” He listed several statistics from the past year including the band’s 246 shows across 16 countries, 640,000 albums sold and 700,000 fans who have seen the band perform live. In addition, The Night Sweats sold out Red Rocks in seven minutes for their August 2017 show. They have been vital catalysts for Denver music, personifying the growth and success of the Mile High city.
To top it all off, Governor Hickenlooper declared the day of December 17 to officially be Nathaniel Rateliff Day. Teary eyed, an audibly emotional Rateliff spoke: “Despite the state of the world, I’ve hope and faith. We are all in the human experience together. Ignorance breeds fear and hate. We will not be bullied.” The band then played a beautiful instrumental introduction of slow percussion and hypnotizing organ notes, which led into their first song, “I’ve Been Falling.”
The soulful rock-n-roll Americana folk band is made up by pairs of percussionists, guitarists, saxophonists and trumpeters as well as a single keyboardist. The Night Sweats were the perfect cure for the negative-degree Denver evening, and their leader and man of the night, Nathaniel Rateliff, was very vocal in between songs with an overall tone of gratitude and hopefulness – “The amount of love I feel is fantastic. I promise to break my heart every time I write a song.” There is a great sense of nostalgia and wisdom in Rateliff’s music. The depth of the soul can be heard so frequently in his raspy vocals, and when accompanied with sounds of trumpets and saxophones among others, the dynamic is powerfully transcending.
The stage itself was perfectly balanced with lights and musicians who created a tremendously well balanced sound. The musical transitions were innately smooth. There were two tiers of vertical white lights – the lower tier was symmetrical and resembled a bell curve, while the top tier of lights were alternating vertical stripes. Color changing flood lights on mechanical swivels shone between, and there was also one horizontal strip of white lights underlining the entirety of the setup.
Midway through the set, The Night Sweats poured offstage leaving Rateliff to play his guitar and sing intimately to the warmly dressed crowd. He played Leonard Cohen’s elegy for Janis Joplin, “Chelsea Hotel #2,” as if he was singing to all of the late musical legends including Prince and David Bowie whom he mentioned earlier as being significant losses from this year. He demonstrated a great sense of unity throughout the performance, even engaging the audience in musical call and response. To conclude his mini solo set, he boldly turned the volume up by crescendoing: ” Move forward with hope and love. We are one body. We are the people – we are the fucking people. Night Sweats assemble!”
After playing out the second half of the set, which included “Parlour,” “Shake” and the finale “S.O.B.,” the band walked off stage before being beckoned out for a two-song encore. It was the best way possible to call for an encore – the crowd sung in unison lyrics from the prior song, “S.O.B.” The encore consisted of “Boil and Fight” and “I’d Be Waiting.” Nathaniel Rateliff was not the only one with a tear in his eyes on this night, December 17, which has become a day of nostalgia for all Colorado music lovers.