Opening for the hard-driving Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats is not an easy gig. But Devon Gilfillian is the type of artist that appears to embrace challenges. Afterall, what could be a bigger challenge for an artist than recording Marvin Gaye’s epic What’s Going On (the entire album not just the song)? Gilfillian covered the album brilliantly. On this particular evening, Gilfillian was more than up to the challenge.
Gilfillian opened with “Even Though It Hurts.” The band laid down a heavy bass and pushed the song a little faster than how it was recorded. The song built up until Gilfillian rip out a strong bluesy falsetto on the chorus and completely grabbed a hold of the audience. As soon as the song ended the band did a great job of jumping into a grooving tune right away, “High,” that featured Gilfillian clear crisp vocals and rhythm guitar. The music was fun and Gilfillian was smooth.
The next three songs really highlighted how comfortable Gilfillian is moving in and out of genres and blending classic music styles with the new. “Unchained” a rocking tune featuring Gilfillian on distorted microphone and electric guitar, “Here and Now,” and "Get Out and Get It” channeled elements of strutting funk (the non-orchestral elements of Isaac Hayes “Walk on By”) and the blues.
The apex of the show was when Gilfillian invited out the Night Sweats horn section and gave the audience a stunning version of the song “What’s Going On.” Gilfillian and band didn’t rush the song and the Night Sweats beautifully captured the ebb and flow of the iconic arrangement.
Gilfillian closed out with “Love You Anyway” (go see a lovely acoustic version of this at Devon Gilfillian - Love You Anyway | LIVE - YouTube) and the rocking “Trouble Maker.”
It was a tight 44 minutes, perfect for an opener, and the crowd got introduced to an artist that is creating great music and can deliver it live.