Small but wiry with a big stack of hair, Willie Nile gingerly made his way onto the stage at The Linda in Albany on Saturday night, hobbling up the stairs on crutches after a suffering a rock ‘n’ roll injury onstage with Springsteen at an Asbury Park benefit concert last week.
Didn’t slow him down one bit. Even sitting down, Nile knows how to rock.
These days, Nile is definitely on a roll. Songs seem to be pouring out of him at an amazing rate. And not just any old songs, either. Good songs. Real good songs. Like “One Guitar,” a big, bold battle-cry for all of the musician-warriors armed with just their acoustic guitars.
Or “Sideways Beautiful,” a sweet ballad dedicated to his daughters. Or “Good News,” a rousing, sing-along gospel song. Or “The Crossing,” a majestic, Celtic-flavored piano ballad, that he dedicated to the late Kate McGarrigle.
As it turned out, on Saturday night half of Nile’s 95-minute show was comprised of unreleased and unrecorded songs. He didn’t bother to play “Heaven Help the Lonely” or “That’s Enough for Me,” probably his best known songs. And if you came to hear his old material, you were pretty much out of luck. For a guy who made his major label debut back in 1980, Nile kept his focus squarely on the present, playing only one song from the ’80s (the existential rocker “Les Champs Elysees”) and one from the ’90s (“Yesterday’s Dreams,” his only solo performance of the evening).
The rest of the night, Nile was accompanied by his frequent songwriting partner Frankie Lee, who added plenty of wallop to Nile’s open-hearted anthems with just a single snare drum and a pair of brushes.
Nile proudly wears his musical influences on his sleeve. In his opening “House of a Thousand Guitars,” he name-checked Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. He described the reggae-infused “When One Stands” as his idea of what Bob Marley might be writing if he were alive today.
And his two cover selections – Buddy Holly’s “I’m Gonna Love You, Too” and a Ramones’ medley of “Blitzkrieg Bop/California Sun/Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” – spanned the entire history of rock & roll.
Rockland Country rocker Joe D’Urso, who usually fronts his band Stone Caravan, opened the show with a 35-minute solo acoustic set, showcasing tunes from his band’s upcoming 12th album, “Down Here by the River.” While the indelible influence of Springsteen is perhaps so strong as to be overpowering, D’Urso made an impact in his Capital Region debut, especially with the hard driving “Waitin’ On the Train” and “LaGuardia to Weehawken,” with lyrics written by Steve O’Brien, one of the passengers aboard “the miracle on the Hudson” plane.
Photos by Andrzej Pilarczyk.
Michael Hochanadel wrote in the Daily Gazette, “Nile is a super-good rocker because he writes songs that sound completely fresh yet also familiar, as if remembered from listening to them under the covers on a transistor radio in some early 1960s time warp — and because he sings them as if his life depends on it.”
Read my review in the Times Union.
WILLIE NILE SET LIST
House of a Thousand Guitars
I’ve Got a Girl
The Innocent Ones (new)
One Guitar (new)
Sunrise in New York City (new)
Song for You (new)
Good News (new)
Streets of New York
I’m Gonna Love You, Too (Buddy Holly)
When One Stands
Cell Phones Ringing (In the Pockets of the Dead)
The Crossing (new)
Les Champs Elysees
Sideways Beautiful (new)
Blitzkrieg Bop/California Sun/Sheena Is a Punk Rocker (Ramones) (with D’Urso)
JOE D’URSO SET LIST
Down Here By the River
LaGuardia to Weehawken (or From Grave to Save)
Waitin’ On the Train
Never Missed You More
All I Needed Was You (Little Steven)
Rock and Roll Call