There aren't a whole lot of singers with a magnetism capable of completely hushing a room the size of the Gothic, but Nathaniel Rateliff did just that near the end of his set on Friday night during his annual holiday show. Sure, there were some energetic moments with the full band, but Rateliff is sometimes most riveting in a more stripped down setting, like during the stunning encore "Early Spring Till," with Joseph Pope III and Julie Davis on either side of him singing harmonies. Rateliff could have played "Early Spring Till" a dozen times, and it still would have been have been a stellar show. Showing that he's equally deft at ballads as he his with uplifting rockers, Rateliff and company also delved into a jazzy cut with Pope on clarinet joined by saxophonist Andy Wild and trumpeter Robert Cole Sackett of A. Tom Collins.
The whole band, which also includes keyboardist James Han and drummer Patrick Meese, was in outstanding form throughout the night, running through material from last year's In Memory of Loss, including rousing takes on "Shroud" early in the set and "Whimper and Wail" for the final encore.
As with previous Rateliff holiday shows, there's a fair amount of members from one band sitting in with other bands. A. Tom Collins, who kicked off the night to more than a half full house, played a few rowdy, jazzy numbers with frontman Aaron Collins singing his ass off, before Snake Rattle Rattle Snakes' Haley Helmericks and Doug Spencer joined the band for a song. Bad Weather California's Chris Adolf also sat in on guitar for a song.
As outrageous and insane singer for Machine Gun Blues, Collins proved he was one of the city's best frontman. While he's at the keyboard most of the time with A. Tom Collins, it doesn't get in the way of him being any more energetic. But at one point he did jump on his keyboard, down a swig of water, cock his head back and spit it out. While the band's latest EP, Oh No!, captures some of the energy of the band's shows, it doesn't quite compare to punch these guys pack live.
While Bad Weather California, who's gearing up to tour with Akron/Family in January, has played its share of crunchy, organic jams, frontman Chris Adolf grew up on punk rock. Maybe touring with the Meat Puppets earlier this year had an effect on the band, since these guys didn't waste any time ripping into a thoroughly rocking set. Bad Weather California sounded tight and energetic as ever, especially on a song fueled by a Bo Diddley beat that didn't sound too far off from "Not Fade Away."
By the time Snake Rattle Rattle Snake hit the stage, the Gothic looked like it was at near capacity. Drawing primarily from material from the band's outstanding latest effort, Sineater, singer Haley Helmericks and company delivered a propulsive set with brilliant takes on "Hastily," "Adoration" and "NOPD."
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Personal Bias: Rateliff is sounding better than ever, and it's pretty astounding to see how far he has come in the last year, from touring with Mumford and Sons to an appearance on Later...With Jools Holland. By the way: Rateliff played some new songs that should end up on a forthcoming album, which he said should come out in 2013. Random Detail: Governor John Hickenlooper was in the house.