Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats barge through (imaginary) swinging saloon doors and tear up the stage with a rambunctious set.

7/28/17 – Xfinity Center

“Y’all having a good time?” Nathaniel Rateliff’s gritty voice thundered out into the crowd at Mansfield’s Xfinity Center. “Let me hear you one more time!” he shouts, with a noisy strum of his guitar. The crowd responds with cheers.

“One time!” Strum. “Two times!” Strum, strum.

It was clear from the start that folk rockers Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats had come to tear shit up. The strums that hyped up the crowd led to “Look It Here,” which was played at a faster tempo than usual; the horns played a much more prominent role, driving the song forward, accenting the off beat and adding a sense of urgency.

And though “Shake” started with the band’s slow sway of the hips, the gentle shake of the maracas, and the glimmer of the blinking background lights, it didn’t take long for the three cowboy hats onstage to go from bobbing along to practically headbanging. One guitarist furiously spit out a solo, hunched so low over his instrument that it was inches away from his face.

What had started like a lazy float down a river had turned into a storm.

The other guitarists joined in before turning their backs and leaning up against the speakers to hit the audience with a building wave of static and noise. Though throughout their performance the band members often added extra layers of sound to each song, they managed to make the music feel more like the purposeful layering of jamming jazz musicians than the rowdy ruckus of the neighborhood garage band. At the end of the song, Rateliff tossed his white guitar into the air, caught by the stage crew. The red curtains were doused in blue light, turning a deep purple.

It was time to dance.

With just a tambourine in hand, Nathaniel danced a two-step to “Out on the Weekend,” before the band hammered out more recognizable songs that were greeted by cheers from the crowd.

With “S.O.B.” Rateliff and crew seemed determined to get everyone involved: mid-way through, a trumpet solo and a giant decrescendo brought the band to their knees as Rateliff yelled to the audience to join them. “We got all night! Come down! Get the fuck down!”

“Alright… My heart is breaking, hands are shaking. Bugs are crawling all over me!” he sang, accompanied by just hums and the drum beat. “Son of a bitch, give me a drink!” he belted, dancing wildly. With a last “Woah!” and a raised hand, the whirlwind that was Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats was over.

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