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In a pretty sly marketing move, Jameson took it upon themselves to kick off the St. Patrick’s Day festivities two days in advance with an intimate gig from Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats in their newly renovated distillery in Smithfield. It was actually the first of two gigs, with a second, larger event laid on tonight (Thursday) in The Academy. Paddy’s day next year will probably see the introduction of a full-on, week long music festival.
Having previously hosted the likes of Gavin James and Kodaline, the recent makeover has transformed the atrium of the Jameson distillery into a space that feels much tighter and more intimate. With a low stage and a small, fully seated audience, it should have been the perfect space to catch a band who sold out The Olympia Theatre twice on their last visit in ultra-close quarters. Unfortunately, for the first few songs the atmosphere was lacking.
This is no fault of the band. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats know exactly what it is they’re doing, and nobody could accuse them of not being damn good at it. The seven-piece flowed through graceful renditions of ‘I’ve Been Failing’ and ‘Wasting Time’, playing off each other with disarming ease.
At the centre of things, Rateliff led the show with an unassuming charm. He paused to drop in a few laconic anecdotes between numbers. “I was being kinda a jerk when it wrote this” he said of ‘How Make Friends’. Before launching into their show-stopping hit single ‘S.O.B’, Rateliff leaned one tattooed forearm on the body of his guitar like a man who’d just done a hard day’s work, sighed, and paused for dramatic effect. Then he launched into a rich, bluesy vocal line that rose and rose, and powered into a huge blast of poppish Americana by way of the band’s harmonious backing vocals.
After that, the band vacated the stage and let Rateliff and his acoustic guitar do their thing on ‘I’d Be Waiting’. It was the shows one moment of true intimacy, as Rateliff revealed himself as a true songwriter, able to conjure up yards of emotion with nothing more than a couple of chords and his powerful voice.
And after thirty odd minutes, that was that. It was a distilled essence of a show that scarcely missed a beat. But still, for all the well-honed showmanship on display from the mighty band, the gig never quite found its feet. By the time the vibe had really kicked in, Rateliff was taking his bows and stepping off the stage. It was a bit of tease.
The best thing that can be said about it is that to felt a little like being privy to a warm-up to the real show. With any luck, tonight’s Academy gig will last a little longer and pack a little more punch.