Being an opening act is a tough gig. You’re generally there for professing your art you’ve devoted yourself to for a large gathering of people who frankly are just there waiting for someone else. People are talking, checking their phones, taking selfies, tagging themselves at the venue to see the main event.
It’s easy for the headliner, the act people paid money to see, to grab their attention. It takes a special artist and a special performance to engage that crowd and get them to pay attention. Luckily, Robert Finley is a special artist. He persevered and released his debut album at 62 years old, an album that got the attention of Dan Auerbach of Black Keys fame, who produced his follow up GOIN’ PLATINUM!
On this night, at 65 years old, he tore the attention of the fans away from glowing screens and onto the stage. He was soulful, he was groovy, he was animated and most of all he was genuine. You had no choice but to dig his vibe. He humbly asked the crowd if they’d come back out if he brought his band back on their own and the crowd erupted, and they meant it. Whether it was a heartfelt song like “Age Don’t Mean a Thing” or a swinger like “Get It While You Can,” he was a captivating presence.
It was a great pairing with Nathaniel Rateliff who spent a decade and a half plugging away at music, scraping by, working hard to make a living, before he exploded after hooking up with the Night Sweats.
The band came out to “Shoe Boot” from their latest effort Tearing at the Seams. Unfortunately, it was a false start as Rateliff’s mic wasn’t doing what microphones are supposed to do. The band still got through the song, before leaving the stage for a few minutes while techs ironed out the issue.
They came back out and there was a huge ovation when we were finally treated to Rateliff’s southern sounding drawl. They followed with two more tracks from the new album, a preview that this set would be heavily focused on new material. It was surprising to what extent their eponymous breakthrough was left to the wayside.
Rateliff is a great live performer. For a big burly man, he moves about the stage with grace and style. He always has a wry smile on his face, something I attribute to an artist who worked hard and appreciates the success he has. He has a great mix of swagger and humility.
Eight songs in, during “Wasting Time,” the mic problems once again reared their ugly heads. This time rather than leave the stage, Rateliff sat at the edge of the stage with his band, asked everyone for a little bit of quiet and finished the song on his acoustic. It was a unique and quite awesome moment. The band then regrouped and played an instrumental jam.
Back out with his acoustic, Rateliff bent down on one knee to capture both his voice and guitar in his guitar mic, which was held in place by saxophonist Jeff Dazey. Consummate professionalism and the crowd ate it up. The mics were back on and the rest of the set went on without technical flaws.
The first set ended with the ubiquitous “S.O.B.” It’s a great song to end a set because it leaves the crowd chanting “woooh-oh-wooh” rather than Montreal’s traditional Ole Ole Ole. The chant continued straight on through to the encore, even running into “Coolin’ Out.” The encore featured a fantastic cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.”
Overall, this was a much different performance than last time the band hit Montreal. It was a much tamer set. This is a reflection of the new album which is a much tamer album, concentrating more on quality songwriting than blazing horns.
From start to finish, from Finley to Rateliff, a fantastic evening of soulful, earnest music.
(instrumental due to microphone failure)
(second take, with mics on this time)
Look It Here
Howling At Nothing
A Little Honey
Out on the Weekend
You Worry Me
(audio issues resurfaced, Nathaniel finished the song solo acoustic unplugged)
(Night Sweats horn section only, at the front of the stage, unplugged)
Babe I Know
(Nathaniel solo with Jeff Dazey holding a working mic)
I Need Never Get Old
Baby I Lost My Way, (But I’m Going Home)
Still Out There Running
I Need Never Get Old
Say It Louder
(Bruce Springsteen cover)
Tearing at the Seams
Review – Richard Brunette
Photos – Steve Gerrard