The small and intimate stage at the Bodega in Nottingham means that when Nathaniel Rateliff is bellowing out powerful codas you can see his fillings. Another reason the Bodega is so good is that they usually include a local band as support, and on this night that was left to George Holyroyd.
Dressed in his smartest shoes he locks himself in for some covers (including Alt-J’s ‘Tessellate’, ‘Lonely Boy’ by The Black Keys and Santana’s ‘Smooth’) mixed in with some original songs. He has a solid voice, taking on a southern US growl which belies his baby face. The impressive part of his set is how much he hammers his fingers across his acoustic, caring not in the least for his nails or his cuticles. George knows what the crowd is really here for however, taking his respectful round of applause and making way for the main act.
Prior to doors Nathaniel Rateliff can be spotted striding away from the venue and off into the rainy streets. Luckily he finds his way back along with the band, who group hug before taking the stage. This UK tour sees Rateliff with a new line up with Jenna Conrad on Cello taking over from Julie Davis who couldn’t fly due to her pregnancy.
Rateliff is quiet, clad in a denim jacket and neckerchief he smiles and nods to the audience before beginning with the quiet ‘When You’re Here’ and ‘Falling Faster Than You Can Run’ the latter being the title track from his new album. Then rest of the band gets eased in across these songs before a firm favourite ‘Shroud’ sees action.
The crowd, respectful of the quiet of most songs gives rapturous applause and is thanked by Rateliff who modestly remarks with a chuckle that they’re “doing quite well with the new line up”. New songs like ‘Right On’ are mixed in with the better known tracks like ‘You Should Have Seen the Other Guy’. One reveller, spoiling the atmosphere somewhat whistles loudly during the quieter moments in songs, stifling Rateliff’s composure as he later tells them they can leave (whether he’s joking or not is not quite clear).
Drummer Pat Meese and keyboard player Mark Shusterman sweat with concentration and add to the harmonising vocals across the board excellently. They must be confident in the new material, using ‘When Do You See?’ as the penultimate son before using ‘Early Spring Till’ to sign off with the line “I could fill up with air and scream so loud, I think I’m going to”.
The nature of the songs plays well to an older audience who give the songs room to spread out, like a performance in a cavern everything is well received, from the unreleased ‘Closer’ to the somewhat creepily titled ‘Three Fingers In’ of which Rateliff comments “it’s not as bad as you think, but it is probably about what you think it’s about”.
The band can be found at the merch stand later where they make a roaring trade and everyone leaves more than satisfied with the 17 song set. There is nothing mysterious about the man himself but the songs are bewitchingly simple, not quite a stomping hootenanny but more a relaxing and reflective performance worthy of more acclaim than he has yet received.