Dublin audiences scarcely need an excuse for a party at the best of times, so a gig on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day by Denver soul-rock troupe Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – taking place at the Academy as part of the hugely popular Jameson Bow St. Sessions – has easily ratcheted up the atmosphere to fever pitch.
Normally the Bow St. Sessions focus on collaborations between local acts, but Jameson have pulled off a serious coup by securing Rateliff as the headliner for this show, as the singer continues his meteoric ascent on the back of his wildly successful, self-titled breakthrough album from 2015. The singer has plenty of previous history in Ireland, having played two gigs at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre exactly one year ago, and also performed at the country’s biggest festival, Electric Picnic, last autumn.
This summer, meanwhile, will find him playing three nights at Dublin’s 14,000-capacity 3Arena as support to Kings Of Leon, so the Jameson bash offers an invaluable opportunity to see him and his band at close quarters. Indeed, as a warm-up for the Academy show the previous evening, Rateliff and the Night Sweats performed an even more intimate gig at the Jameson Distillery in Smithfield, playing a superb Unplugged set for a small group of lucky fans.
Tonight, after excellent sets by a brace of local acts, soul singer Brian Deady and punk-funk trio All Tvvins, the Night Sweats set the scene in front of a jam-packed crowd with an infectious R&B groove. As Rateliff makes his theatrical entrance, it’s clear that he oozes star charisma and star quality; indeed, with his straw hat, bushy beard and black denim clothing, he could have walked straight out of a TV show such as True Detective.
He’s also a dab hand at winning a crowd over. “Conas a ta tu?” he asks after the first number, utilizing the Irish phrase for every rock frontman’s favorite query, “How’s it goin’?” Needless to say, the audience are delighted with his efforts. Playing a spellbinding mix of gospel, soul, Americana, and vintage rock and roll, the band rip through mightily impressive takes on familiar favorites like ‘I’ve Been Failing’, ‘I Need Never Get Old’, ‘Look It Here’ and ‘Howling At Nothing’.
Throughout, Rateliff is a magnetic presence, busting out some nimble footwork reminiscent of James Brown and, at one particularly exciting moment, smashing his tambourine off the floor. Eventually pausing for a breather, he raises a glass of Jameson in a toast. “To the people’s whiskey!” he beams, to a suitably uproarious reaction.
The show comes to a wonderfully climactic end thanks to a rip-roaring rendition of the anthemic hit ‘S.O.B.’ and – in a particularly special moment – a cover of the classic Irish folk song ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, famously turned into a hit by local rock icons Thin Lizzy in the ’70s. It sends the crowd out in an appropriately euphoric mood as they head into St. Patrick’s weekend.
Rateliff may have served his dues with a famously long apprenticeship, but much like Jameson’s celebrated aging process, his music’s development and finessing over a long period of time means it has hit a mass audience in absolutely peak condition. Make no mistake – this show was a triumph for one of the most gifted acts currently operating in American rock.