KCRW Festival continued its celebration at The Hollywood Bowl on Sunday with an eclectic bill of music, headlined by Denver blues-rock outfit Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats joined by retro-soul band Durand Jones & The Indications as well as jazzy blues singer and guitarist Celisse. The two bands made their debuts at the Hollywood Bowl, while Celisse mentioned she had played the historic venue in the past.
Celisse‘s set included the rockin’ “Get There”, a smooth, bluesy “Lost” elevating the jazzy elements of her voice and “Help”. Celisse shared with the crowd that she performed at the Hollywood Bowl once before, singing background vocals for Melissa Etheridge. “Celisse loves you” was written on the pink speakers behind her as she played her guitar for a phenomenal cover of Bill Withers’ hit “Use Me”. The talented vocalist and musician, who recently shared the stage with Joni Mitchell at Newport Folk Festival and Lizzo on Saturday Night Live, shouted out her bandmates, Solomon Dorsey on bass and Darren King on drums.
Durand Jones & The Indications played for 70 minutes, alternating vocals between Jones and sensational drummer Aaron Frazer, offering up a blend of different 60s and 70s flavors, from retro-soul to disco. The eight-piece was also comprised of Blake Rhein on guitar and vocals, Michael Montgomery on bass and vocals, Mayteana Morales on percussion and vocals, Steve Okonski on keys, Jackie Coleman on trumpet and Lynn Ligammari on saxophone. The show opener was “Circles” with Jones hitting some big notes beautifully while Frazer offered harmonies and Coleman and Ligammari’s trumpet and saxophone brought the heat. Jones offered harmonies during Frazer’s phenomenal falsetto-led vocal on the disco tune with Okonski’s keys and Montgomery’s bass driving it forward.
“Don’t You Know” was the type of sweeping R&B throwback the crowd was looking for from Jones and Frazer and on “More Than Ever”, the romance was alive with the bass holding the groove as Jones performed an incredible vocal. Frazer completely smashed an outstanding vocal while drumming as the lights flashed in pastel pinks and purples on “How Can I Be Sure”. Jones sat down on the stage, setting the mood for “True Love”, with some really bright and amazing notes, bringing so much swagger by the end on his knees. The timeless ballad “Is It Any Wonder” was beautifully led by Frazer and the band then played a medley of several songs that was capped off wonderfully by Frazer for a cover of Smokey Robinson’s 1965 classic “Ooh Baby Baby” that was complete perfection.
The horn-led “Smile” energized the crowd, with one of Jones’ best of the night, his smoky voice wailing away with some scat singing by the end, and the lights blazing in pink, purple and yellow. “We would really not be here without the city of Los Angeles”, said Jones. “This next one is dedicated to y’all, we love y’all so much”. The song was “Cruisin to the Park”, slowed down with a super cool horn section with alternating vocals from Jones and Frazer. The pulse was up for disco tune “Sea of Love” with Jones dancing during the horn instrumental, topped off with a brilliant vocal solo from Morales. Durand Jones & The Indications concluded a remarkable set with their electro-soul tune “Witchoo”, with multi-colored lights flashing during the incredible vocals from Frazer and Jones and the entire band. It is a rather perfect arrangement, oozing with attitude and suggestive as ever with Jones’ winkable line “I know you came with your friends, but who you lea-ving with?” Durand Jones & The Indications refreshingly recall a time when soul acts had more than one stellar lead singer, with a full ensemble to boot.
Fresh off a performance alongside Paul Simon at Newport Folk Festival, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats delivered their blues-rock mastery with moments of soul and roots music for another wonderful 70 minute set. Opening with the lively “You Worry Me”, blue and golden hues alternated on the Bowl’s shell interior while the musicians were cast in a black and white screen, sounding solid as a unit. Rateliff was joined by his seven band members including Luke Mossman on guitar, Mark Shusterman on keys, Joseph Pope III on bass, Pat Meese on drums, Andreas Wild on tenor saxophone, Daniel Hardaway on trumpet and Jeff Dazey on baritone saxophone.
Big soul drowned the space on “Look It” with stellar horns from Wild and Dazey and Hardaway, a wonderful blues guitar solo from Rateliff and the crowd clapped along during the lively tune. It was one of many spirited vocals from Nathaniel Rateliff, who stepped down off the main stage, while the horns creating even more magic. Following the last bar/lyric “I’m on your side”, the stage went dark for maximum impact and a roaring applause. Some insane energy continued for the impressive arrangement of “Survivor”, with another wail from Rateliff, the trumpet rocking away and the band bringing severe heat to the stage on this anthemic song. “Baby I Lost My Way, (But I’m Going Home)” had timeless moments on the organ from Shusterman as well as the horn section, coupled with excellent vocals and background vocals, with the lights shifting from green and blue and purple to red hot.
The swampiness and “woo woo woos” on the bluesy “So Put Out” plus the tightness of the band and the horns made this one you couldn’t keep your eyes off of. “This is our first time at The Hollywood Bowl and we are very happy to be here”, said Rateliff. “We cannot thank you enough for being here with us”. He also gave a nod to Duran Jones & The Indications, who he mentioned are good friends and also thanked Celisse.
Harmonies from organist Shusterman were tops, blended with Rateliff’s voice on “A Little Honey”, with the frontman now seated at the keys himself, with lights glowing behind the band. It was blues rock perfection. It was followed by the pretty, jazzier “Love Me Till I’m Gone”, with Rateliff still seated at the keys. One of the other most beautiful songs of the night was “Face Down In The Moment”, with the trio of horns having a moment, blended with strong and poignant chords on the keys from Rateliff. The guitar theme was particularly warm, with Rateliff back on his feet, voice shining on the alluring track, wailing again by the end with so much power and taking a seat at the very end for a few more gentler bars on the piano.
“Friends, please give a round of applause for my family, The Night Sweats”, said Rateliff. “We released an album in 2020 and only got to play about 10 shows because of a flu we all got”. Following the crowd’s laughter and the band’s brief exit, Rateliff played “Still Alright” with Luke Mossman on guitar and Mark Shusterman accompanying the singer on keys. The guitar solo was full of so much stunning emotion and Shusterman added lovely color to Rateliff’s vocals.
The band was back for “Hey Mama”, another welcome turn with some slight Americana, the horns turning up and several of the band members singing together in unison. The banging piano on “I’ll Be Damned” had the band clapping which got the fans joining in, with the horns blasting away and the entire arrangement giving off some slight Billy Joel vibes. “Coolin’ Out” had a soul throwback feel, with a stellar moment from Jeff Dazey on the baritone sax.
The band played an energetic “Intro” with standout moments on the organ and the horns, Nathaniel was hitting the tambourine and the fans were clapping and dancing along. Shusterman ran onto the semicircle catwalk by the audience with a tambourine on “I Never Never Get Old” with amazing harmonies once again from Shusterman, now standing with the tambourine. Rateliff raised his hands up to the beat and threw his guitar halfway across the stage to his tech at the end of the lively tune.
For the encore, the hand-claps and foot-stomps were in full effect on Nathaniel Rateliff’s smash “S.O.B.”, with the Bowl crowd clapping and dancing like a crazed hoedown. Rateliff got down on a knee during the lyric “my heart was breaking, hands are shaking”, snapping his fingers and then the wailing was back with time almost standing still for a few minutes. There was an extended rest and the massive cheers enveloped the venue, starting up again with tiny dance steps from Rateliff feeling the music, turning it into one big sing-a-long. The last song was the bright and optimistic “Love Don’t”, closing a stellar show with the whole ensemble smashing it on the 60s-inspired soul track. Rateliff shook his shoulders by the end like the spirit was inside of him. It was a fantastic first stint at The Hollywood Bowl with the horns blasting again at the end. They will surely be back.
Words by Michael Menachem
Images by Tim Aarons