Nathaniel Rateliff’s Holiday Party:11.25.11

Every time Nathaniel Rateliff comes home to Denver, it’s like a family reunion.  Friday night at the Gothic Theatre was no different.  A hometown line-up including not only Nathaniel and his Fairchildren, but also Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, Bad Weather California and A. Tom Collins, brought people out en masse on this chilly Black Friday.  It might have been Buy Nothing Day for many, but I think we’d be forgiven for stimulating our local music/bar scene by joining Rateliff‘s friends and family for an evening in Englewood.

The Master of Ceremonies took the stage at 11:00pm after a captivating (if a little subdued compared to past performances) set from local indie/psychedelic sweethearts Snake Rattle Rattle Snake.   Wearing his standard uniform of a button-down over a deep white V-neck, skinny jeans with a chain, and guitar, the humble but confident Rateliff thanked the crowd before taking us through a few familiar favorites — but this night wouldn’t just be a rehash of In Memory of Loss.  He has plenty of opportunities to promote that album when he is performing in churches in Europe or bars in Manhattan — this particular night, in front of a crowd who already owns the album and has likely seen it performed multiple times, provided an opportunity to experiment with new material.  The middle section of the set served as a jazzy interlude of unreleased songs.  Not only were the harmonies with Julie Davis vocally heartbreaking, but he had a horn section join the 4-piece Fairchildren, adding a grandiose element rarely experienced at a Rateliff show.

Last October, Lost Lake Lounge provided Rateliff with a month-long residency to perform Leonard Cohen covers every Thursday night.  Watching him perform Songs Of Love And Hate in front of a handful of people was an unforgettable experience — few have the voice or disposition to pull something like that off — Rateliff‘s only issue was forgetting a few lyrics.  Usually it’s hard to see an artist in a larger venue (with a near sold-out crowd) after seeing something that intimate, but there is something about witnessing him with a full band.  The acoustic, acapella moments Friday night left the crowd silenced in awe, but it was the high energy numbers that really lit things up.  When the man’s howls fight for dominance over the heavy percussion, it moves something deep inside.  Nathaniel Rateliff might not belong to Denver anymore, but Friday night should make everyone proud he is out there representing our Mile High City.

We didn’t make it early enough to catch the first couple acts, but Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and Nathaniel Rateliff & Fairchildren provided for another great local music showcase.  There were quite a few good shows going on around town, and the decision was hard, but I believe we chose the right one.  Aside from the music, the family-oriented atmosphere really made it a special night.  The only complaint I have is that it all ended too early.