KCRW’s “World Festival” | Hollywood Bowl | 8/14/22

Article Contributed by Jason Berk | Published on Wednesday, August 17, 2022

On August 14th, Los Angeles independent radio darling KCRW presented a curated evening of music at the storied Hollywood Bowl. Despite the event being billed as part of KCRW’s “World Festival,” the music presented was uniquely American, with blues, soul, funk, R&B, and classic Americana all well-represented.

Celisse | Hollywood Bowl

First up was Celisse, the mononymic rising star whose profile was recently boosted after appearing with Joni Mitchell at the 2022 Newport Folk Fest. Wielding a Gibson SG, her guitar blaring out of twin pink amplifiers adorned with “Celisse loves you,” the singer-songwriter owned the stage the second she stepped onto it. Opening with the electric soul of “Get There,” Celisse’s set recalled not just Sister Rosetta Tharpe, but Gary Clark Jr., bringing the sounds of a genre over a century old kicking and screaming into the future. Across her four-song set (including a blistering take on Bill Withers’s “Use Me”), Celisse had those in the crowd smart enough to get to the show early eating out of the palm of her hand with only bass and drums to support her masterful guitar playing. I imagine this is only the first of what will be many more appearances at the Bowl from Celisse.

Durand Jones & the Indications | Los Angeles, CA

Durand Jones & the Indications followed, with a mellow set that worked as a counterpoint to Celisse’s electric blues-rock. The band name is a slight misnomer — while Jones is out front and is the ostensible face of the unit, drummer Aaron Frazer was responsible for roughly half of the lead vocals; his silky falsetto complementing Jones’s edgier tenor. Still riding the success of their 2021 single “Witchoo” (which closed the set), Jones & company executed a perfectly-manicured 70-minute set of revivalist soul that went down smooth, including a note-perfect take on Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “Ooh Baby Baby,” a major highlight of their performance. The downside of this low-simmering brand of groove was that they never really managed to get the crowd especially worked up. Jones himself is not a particularly dynamic frontman, eventually aping some of James Brown’s moves and falling to his knees during “Waiting On My True Love” but otherwise mostly standing still or calmly moving about the stage, nattily attired save for the hat that obscured his face to even those in the priciest seats. Their show could easily be electrifying in a smaller setting, but the Bowl might have been a little too much for the octet. As I remarked to my companion after their set, “my biggest takeaway from their set shouldn’t be that I should listen to more Smokey Robinson.”

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats | Hollywood Bowl

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats | photos by Stevo Rood

None of this would be a problem for headliner Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, touring in support of their 2021 release The Future. Opening with “You Worry Me,” off of 2018’s Tearing at the Seams (produced by a still-very-much-missed Richard Swift), Rateliff and his band tore through a powerful set that pulled largely from the aforementioned albums as well as their 2015 eponymous debut, with a lovely acoustic detour for “And It’s Still Alright,” the title track from Rateliff’s 2020 solo venture. The venue’s screens broadcasting the show for those in the back were set to black and white for the headlining set, which quickly set the mood for nearly ninety minutes of blue-eyed soul and R&B, with Rateliff singing in a beautiful rasp weathered beyond his 43 years. The knowledge that Rateliff was reportedly about to give up on his music career just before the Night Sweats hit it big made the performance even more joyous, with the encore of their breakthrough single “S.O.B.” having the crowd up on their feet from the opening stomp-clap. By the time they reached their closing number, “Love Don’t,” the band had not just the audience but themselves worked into a frenzy, with keyboardist Mark Shusterman taking a lap around the Bowl’s pool circle between choruses and throwing a tambourine across the stage. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats aren’t looking to reinvent the musical wheel; they don’t have to when the wheels they have are this good.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats | Hollywood Bowl