August 10, 2022

Neo-blues rock band, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats visit Bethlehem SteelStacks for a unique concert experience last night

photo credit: Eric Sperrazza

There are few opportunities left these days for people to come together, leaving behind their political, religious and social class differences. At every turn, any problem, no matter how trivial, forces the majority of the population to take sides against each other.

At concerts, however, the lines are seemingly blurred. For a moment the schisms of the day are let go as you stand shoulder to shoulder with venerable strangers, singing and dancing in unison; share a moment when music moves you collectively and fills you with pure joy. Regardless of the state of the world, we music lovers always had THAT…until we didn’t.

The Covid-19 pandemic put a moratorium on these wonderful interactions at concerts as the world sheltered in place, separated from each other, to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

For more than a year, we have struggled with the uncertainty of tomorrow, while those who make music for a living have suffered a severe blow to their livelihoods. Everyone and everything, no matter how close, seemed so distant.

But the winter of our discontent seemed to be coming to an end, as news of concert halls resuming shows began circulating on the internet. Fans began tweeting feelings of excitement as the bands hit the road. But what would this new world look like? How would you like to get together one more time? These were questions that demanded answers and so I embarked on a road trip to my first live show in more months than I care to count.

My first stop was a town on the outskirts of Philadelphia called Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This city was once a pillar of American industrialism, as Bethlehem Steel was once responsible for most of the skyscrapers and bridges that adorn our country. Since the final closure of the factory, the town is struggling to make its comeback and regain its identity. I thought it was fitting that my first show in the real world was there…and “there” is where I would be witnessing Nathaniel Rateliff and night sweats.

Nathaniel Rateliff and night sweatsa neo-blues rock band born in Colorado, sprinkle in a medley of everything from outlaw rock, rockabilly, gospel, R&B and vintage soul into their music. Rateliff faces the group with a voice that can both soothe the soul, perfectly tonal and sweet on the ear, then, all at the same time, can shift smoothly into a howl that tugs at your heart and leaves collective jaws drop.

photo credit: Eric Sperrazza

At Levitt Pavilion Steel Stackswith a backdrop Bethlehem Ironworks illuminated as an American ruins tourist attraction, this group masterfully began to restore Bethlehem’s identity.

Like Joe Cocker, Bruce Springsteen and so many other working class artists who came before them, Rateliff delivered a high-energy experience, telling stories of addiction, lost love, and finding your place in a difficult world, while doing so with a spirit that moved everyone within earshot. In the center of everything, Rateliff commands the entire crowd with the fervor of a Sunday preacher and the inviting warmth of the local yokel at your corner bar.

The one thing that was obvious to everyone was that the experience you get from listening Nathaniel Rateliff and night sweats on a recording is less than the memory you leave with when you see them live.

Young hipsters sport their vaudevillian mustaches, while baby boomers wear khaki shorts and hard rock fans wear screen-printed Queen and AC/DC shirts. Your typical Philadelphians sport the colors of their Eagles on their various gear, in tune with each other as they sing, jump, dance, and shout; moved by the music and lost in the joy, arm and arm, together once again.

The band and audience, both grateful for their night together, feed off each other’s infectious energy to create an unforgettable live experience and make that perfect night happen.

It was perfect. From the opening agreement of the group of “Shoe Boot,” “Electric Cliff” at “SOB,” a thick vibration fills the air. Maybe the setlist is the right setlist for the right night in the right place. It’s hard to say.

What I can say is that I will never forget a specific, cathartic moment for the rest of my days. When Nathaniel Rateliff and the night sweats started playing their hit, “Redemption” from Palmer Original Motion Picture Soundtrackthe audience began to sway collectively and sang along with the group, “As he grabs hold of him and he won’t let go, I remember the cold / And how he took me so / Are you worth saving? All your fears and insecurities / Release Just set me free / Just set me free / Just set me free…”

Welcome back together.

This review is dedicated to my father, Bob, for sharing his love of soul and blues-rock with me. I wouldn’t have wanted to share this night and this music with anyone else in my life.

Login with Nathaniel Rateliff and night sweats

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