Reviewed on Tuesday March 7
It’s been said before that ‘everything old is new again’; an adage that was made quite clear at the Enmore Theatre when C.W. Stoneking fused his take on Mississippi Delta blues to Nathaniel Rateliff’s alt-gospel country rock, to wondrous effect. As bands and musicians continue pushing into new sounds, these two and their accompanying bands strip it back to what works – something real and intoxicatingly genuine.
Stoneking opened the show with the electric call of his blues guitar on ‘How Long’; his backup singers glittering in gold dresses; his horns, keys and bass players all suavely suited; and the man himself buttoned up in his slick white outfit, belting out the songs like a preacher man calling down thunder from the mountains.
Working through a set comprised of favourites from King Hokum, Jungle Blues and Gon’ Boogaloo, Stoneking allowed his shy demeanour to come through between songs – a typical attempt at banter was, “I don’t really know what to say, so we’re just gonna play this little song instead.” The crowd didn’t mind – everything that needed saying was there in his music.
After an intermission, Rateliff and The Night Sweats took the stage, playing the gospel revivalists to Stoneking’s preacher man. The soul and swagger could be heard on every note, and Rateliff’s drawl had everyone jumping on the floor. There could be no doubting the connection between Rateliff and his band, who played off each other like pros. They shook, rattled and rolled their way through ‘I Need Never Get Old’, ‘Look It Here’ and ‘Howling At Nothing’ like friends on a road trip. Rateliff worked the crowd with excessive charm and heartfelt gratitude, and had everyone swooning and swaying to his solo ‘I’d Be Waiting’.
Convincing a crowd to become a choir can be a bit tricky, but Rateliff and co. whipped them into shape with James Brown levels of efficiency. When The Night Sweats took a bow and walked off stage, the audience uniformly began singing the part from closer ‘S.O.B.’ till the band came back out for the encore. There was something raw and meaningful and true about this show – and while this music might feel a little old-fashioned, Stoneking and Rateliff have made it new again.