Walking into The Fillmore last night just before 9 p.m., I was surprised to find the venue already packed full of people. Not only was it quite a few minutes before the headliner would go on, but it was a Wednesday night in January. Everyone was there and they were there early.

Wednesday night was the first of two sold-out nights for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. The band opened with the first song off their debut self-titled album and began to build up the horn section before Rateliff walked on stage to wild applause. The intro to “I Need Never Get Old” provided the band with a little bit of time to warm up and get ready for what would be a wildly fun night.

Right off the bat, Rateliff revealed his showmanship skills. When he wasn’t directly in front of the mic stand singing, he backed up, let his fellow bandmates perform, and danced. And dance he did. Rateliff demonstrated not only immense talent as a singer and guitarist, but for a bigger guy he was incredibly light on his feet. To the audience’s delight, he was back towards the drum kit dancing for a good part of the night.

Though Rateliff was entertaining to watch, the real dancing star was trumpet player Wesley Watkins. Dressed in all white, Watkins’ dancing was able to steal the show without ever detracting from anyone else. We were later graced with a long trumpet solo from Watkins during the final song of the night, the band’s hit single “S.O.B.”

Rateliff paused multiple times during the night to thank the crowd for “giving a shit” about them and selling out the historic venue for two nights. Though a great performer and dancer, I wish he had talked more with the crowd. During the few times he did, I found him quite funny, very humble, and he always had a big grin on his face. Towards the end of the set, Rateliff jokingly told the crowd to get excited, as the next song was a Guns N’ Roses cover. His laughter was abrupt, when his guitarist Luke Mossman launched into the intro riff of the hit “Sweet Child of Mine.” “No no no,” Rateliff laughed, adding that “Luke knows every song on guitar.”

Other highlights included Rateliff’s two solos during “Shake,” the first of which he was locked in fierce eye contact with keyboardist Mark Shusterman. A few songs later, during “Trying So Hard Not to Know,” the lights dimmed and cast the band in a yellowy, brown hue. The darkened mood signified a change of pace in both music and in the band members’ dancing.

After that song, Rateliff took a moment to wipe the sweat from his face and introduce the band, thanking the crowd for “being a part of [their] family this evening.” He then asked the crowd, if they pleased, to sing and clap along, as the band launched into “S.O.B.” to end the night.

I was very impressed the with the show put on by Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. This was their first time in San Francisco, and based on how well things are going for them right now, it’s safe to say they’ll be back soon.

Photos by Sam Engel // Senior Staff