I witnessed something pretty special last night. Local indie-folkster Nathaniel Rateliff, straight off his tour of Europe, played the second night of his month-long residency at Lost Lake Lounge. Every Thursday night for the month of October, Nathaniel will be performing selections from Leonard Cohen’s songbook. Evidently he performed Songs of Leonard Cohen and Songs From a Room in their entirety last week. Last night was heavy on Songs of Love and Hate, before he moved on to selections from other albums. I read about the performance in Westword late in the day yesterday and changed my previous plans immediately. Being a fan of Nathaniel’s work with The Wheel, and being a huge fan of Leonard Cohen, I knew this was something I would regret missing. I wasn’t able to attend his recent performance at The Gothic, and judging by the size of the crowd that did go, I figured the little Lost Lake Lounge would be packed, so I arrived early…around 8:15pm for a 9:00pm performance. I was one of ten people at the bar until around 8:30pm when Nathaniel rolled in. By the time he took the stage at 9:55pm, there were maybe 50 people in the bar.
A couple women took our seats at the bar while we were outside, so we ended up at the table right in front of the stage. It turned out to be the best seat in the house. The room was immediately silenced as soon as Nathaniel started in on “Avalanche” from Songs Of Love And Hate; a song that was cut short when he lost the last page of the music. “Avalanche” led into a track-by-track interpretation of Song of Love and Hate through “Famous Blue Raincoat”. Lost Lake was the perfect setting for the performance. Looking around at the crowd, everyone was swaying back and forth to the music..shutting their eyes to focusing their senses on the words of L. Cohen.
We spoke with Nathaniel for a bit at the bar before the show. He was exhausted when he ordered a Red Bull with whiskey and no ice. He said he hadn’t been drinking and just needed to wake up. We spoke about his recent tour of Europe, enjoying Indian food in the UK better than India, Tom Waits, and of course, Leonard Cohen. He caught the show at Red Rocks last year and we were comparing that to the theater show I saw in Phoenix. You could tell how much he respect he had for Cohen. And that respect came out in his renditions of those classic songs.
Instead of finishing out the first set with the last couple songs from Love and Hate, he decided to mix it up with “The Partisan” and “Iodine”. The bartender broke the silence with a “pretty good,” to which Nathaniel replied “I’m tryin’ bud.” It seemed he was still struggling even after the Red Bull.
The first set lasted around forty-five minutes, and although it wasn’t perfect (he stumbled a bit on “Dress Rehearsal Rag” and skipped the last verse of “Avalanche”), it exceeded expectations. It was one of those rare times when you know you are watching something unique and special. I could almost picture myself, ten years from now, telling my friends about this night. I’m sure Nathaniel will be headlining much larger venues by then.
During the break in sets, the mood changed. Some other people showed up, we took shots, and my new friend busted out the Mini-Connect 4. The energy level had rose to a different level, so when Nathaniel took the stage again, it was hard for me to relax and enjoy it as much. But it was still such a great night of music. I am going to try to bring my wife back before his residency ends. Nathaniel mentioned he is going to try to bring other musicians to play with him, so that should be fun. Here’s to hoping they get around to “I’m Your Man” next time.
Thanks to A.H. Goldstein from Westword for using me in this shot and for the Setlist below. It was nice meeting you last night.
Last Year’s Man
Dress Rehearsal Rag
Diamonds in the Mine
Love Calls You By Name
Famous Blue Raincoat
You Know Who I Am
Bird On a Wire
Seems So Long Ago, Nancy
Story of Isaac
Tonight Will Be Fine
Take This Longing
Who By Fire
I Tried to Leave You