So. How was your summer in terms of live music? Mine included first-time trips to the Newport Folk Festival and Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Colorado. Here in Maine the live offerings were also pretty great. Highlights included a trip to Bangor, where I stood in the rain to watch Neko Case open for Ray LaMontagne.
I also caught some local and national acts at places like Slab, One Longfellow Square, Port City Music Hall, Aura, Portland House of Music and Stone Mountain Arts Center, to name a few spots. And I got quite a thrill in Monument Square a few months ago when I walked by a young man who asked if I wanted to hear him play the piano that was set up as part of the Pianos in the Squares Project. He sat down at an old upright and started playing, and it was mesmerizing watching his fingers fly across the keys as he played a complicated classical piece. I can’t remember his name, but he told me he was homeless and had hit a few rough patches lately. The five bucks I gave him as a thank you for the dazzling music was some of the best money spent this summer on live music.
Two other huge highlights of the summer were shows from Lake Street Dive and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit with Brandi Carlile outside at Thompson’s Point in Portland. Thompson’s Point is, in fact, where I’m sending you for a last hurrah of the season.
The venue is going out with a bang with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and openers Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds. Both acts are outstanding, and memories of this show will carry you through the brutal winter months when we’ll all live for concert announcements for the summer of 2019.
Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds is fronted by sensational vocalist Arleigh Kincheloe. She’s got a set of epic pipes that serve the band’s rock-soul sound superbly well. The band is based in Brooklyn, New York and has a Maine connection through sax player Brian Graham, who lives in Portland. I asked Graham what it means to him to play in front of a hometown crowd on such a huge stage. He’s very excited. “Thompson’s Point has to be one of my favorite venues, and I can’t wait to play for my home crowd,” he said. “We will be playing some songs from the new album as well as some Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds classics.”
Take a listen to “Gold”
Sister Sparrow is set to release its fourth album, “Gold,” on Oct. 12, and the first single is “Ghost.” The song is pulse-quickening pop with a throwback feel. As I was writing this, a press release arrived announcing the second single, the album’s title track. I like “Ghost” plenty, but boy, do I love “Gold.” It’s bursting with horns, and Kincheloe’s voice is tremendous on this funky, easy-to-love song. Do yourself a favor and leave your house in plenty of time to figure out parking and get in line because you don’t want to miss a second of Sister Sparrow’s set. I can’t think of a better act to kick the night off with.
Now onto headliners Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Rateliff, 39, from Colorado, has been singing for many years and has released two solo albums and one as Nathaniel Rateliff and The Wheel. Five years ago, the combo Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats was formed, and in 2015, its self-titled debut album was released. The single “S.O.B.” shot all the way up to No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Alternative Songs chart, and understandably so. It’s a retro rock tune with a huge refrain, and Rateliff’s fervent voice comes close to a growl on the lines “My heart was breaking, hands are shaking, monsters crawling all over me.” I remember the first time I heard it on the radio thinking it sounded like something that could have been on the soundtrack of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” It has that old-timey, foot-stomping feel to it.
Here’s the Blues Brothers inspired video for “S.O.B.”
The follow-up single to “S.O.B” was the tender ballad “Wasting Time,” awash with piano, electric guitars and introspective lyrics.
An eight-song EP called “A Little More From…” followed in 2016, and this March the full-length album “Tearing at the Seams” was released, with the single “You Worry Me.” As “S.O.B.” did, it reached the top of the Billboard Adult Alternative Songs chart. In the world of singles, it’s hard to top “S.O.B.,” but “You Worry Me” has nothing to worry about. The song is rock-solid, with lines you can believe in like, “I’m on fire today, ain’t no water here to calm or even put me out.”
Here’s “You Worry Me”
I took a deeper dive into a few other tracks on the “Seams” album and can report that “Babe I Know” is a slow-moving tune that flows like honey with Rateliff’s vocals shining especially bright. The country-tinged song sounds like something that would be played from a beat-up jukebox in a Southern dive when the only three people left in the joint is a couple who don’t want the night to end and the bartender who can’t wait to lock up.
The album’s opening track, “Shoe Boot,” is a bluesy, funky number with dense organ and horns and a long, swampy intro before Rateliff sings a single note. I have zero doubt that this song alone is going to set the crowd on fire at Thompson’s Point.
The last tune I lent an ear to was “Intro.” It sounds like someone flicked a match onto a lighter-fluid-drenched campfire and everyone put down their marshmallow roasting sticks and started dancing. “Intro” is an R&B rollicker and retro hootenanny all wrapped up into a four-minute, 19-second package.
The sunset is at 6:51 p.m. on the night of the show, and I’m ordering an extra gorgeous at Thompson’s Point. It’s been an incredible summer for music, especially outdoors. Let’s grab one moment more shall we?
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Thompson’s Point, Portland
HOW MUCH: $39.50 in advance, $45 day of show
TIX & INFO: statetheatreportland.com