LIVE: Willie Nile @ The Linda, 5/16/15

May 29th, 2015, 2:00 pm by Greg

Review by Fred Rudofsky

His songs have a deep sense of history and fervent hope for the future, but something else also is for certain: Willie Nile inhabits the world of live performance like no other. He’s dialed into the now, as his welcome return to The Linda showed on a recent Saturday night.

Old fans, some from as far away as Toronto, and the newly converted got the full depth of Nile’s canon of work, which dates back some 30-plus years. Joined his talented band of brothers – bassist Johnny Pisano, drummer Alex Alexander and guitarist Matt Hogan – Nile brought energy and passion, as well as candid stories and about many of the songs, throughout a two-hour set.

“Hear You Breathe,” from his 2010 masterwork The Innocent Ones, blended romance and a propulsive rhythm, a fine showcase for Nile and Pisano’s harmonies. The Penny Lane-like images of “Live on Bleecker Street,” punctuated by Nile’s left leg kicks, kept the mood uptempo. “You make me feel like I’m at home!” shouted Nile to the appreciative audience before dedicating an anthemic “Innocent Ones” to the people of earthquake-stricken Nepal. “Heaven Help the Lonely” from 1991’s Places I’ve Never Been got a good number in the crowd up and dancing, with Hogan channeling a blend of Richard Lloyd and The Edge in a series of chiming, melodic solos on his black Telecaster. Setting aside his Stratocaster for a weathered acoustic, Nile sent out his delicate ode to love, “She’s Got My Heart,” to his three granddaughters.

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LIVE: Willie Nile @ The Linda, 5/17/14

May 27th, 2014, 4:00 pm by Greg
Willie Nile

Willie Nile

Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Willie Nile loves Albany, and Albany loves Willie Nile. When you hear the radio broadcast that was taped at The Linda recently on a Saturday night, it will be obvious that there is a growing mutual admiration society here in Nippertown.

In previous visits to the WAMC-FM performing arts studio, Nile had played with one or two other musicians, but as he pointed out after an evocative solo piano opener (“Streets of New York”), “This is the first time I’ve had my full band here!” In walked Johnny Pisano (bass), Alex Alexander (drums) and Matt Hogan (lead guitar). Nile grabbed his weathered Strat, stomped his boots and the band played a rollicking “This Is Our Time” from American Ride, one of the best albums of 2013 according to music critics, including yours truly. Another recent song, “Life on Bleecker Street,” featured a killer opening bass riff by Pisano and an abundance of images of a day in the famed New York neighborhood.

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LIVE: Willie Nile @ LarkFest, 9/21/13

October 15th, 2013, 4:00 pm by Greg
Willie Nile (photo by Richard Brody)

Willie Nile (photo by Richard Brody)

Review and photographs by Richard Brody
Additional photographs by Bryan Lasky

The day-long musical fireworks on Lark Street needed a grand finale, and who better than Willie Nile and his superb band to supply that at LarkFest’s Madison Avenue stage? The crowd was pumped from the opening salvo: “This Is Our Time,” with lyrics, “Can you feel the power, can you feel the drive, can you feel the feeling that it’s good to be alive?” Support came steady from the tight rhythm section of Johnny Pisano on bass and Alex Alexander on drums and Matt Hogan’s slamming lead guitar; band and crowd became one, and the party kicked into an even higher gear.

The set featured a number of songs from Nile’s recent album, American Ride, including “Life On Bleecker Street” about his adopted NYC home and specifically the street on which his career began some 40 years ago. Willie being Willie, this was not a nostalgic trip back home, but rather a humorous and somewhat cynical view of hipsters, stars, wannabees and tourists who all see Bleecker Street as the destination.

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LIVE: Willie Nile @ WAMC-FM’s The Linda, 6/1/13

June 18th, 2013, 4:00 pm by Greg
Willie Nile (Photo courtesy of The Linda/Andrzej "Andre" Pilarczyk 2013)

Willie Nile (photo courtesy of The Linda/© Andrzej “Andre” Pilarczyk 2013)

Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs courtesy of The Linda/Andrzej “Andre” Pilarczyk

As Yogi Berra would say, it felt like deja vu all over again – only with a batch of new songs added – when perennial favorite Willie Nile mesmerized The Linda in Albany like few on the scene can. Don’t believe me? Wait till you hear the upcoming broadcast of this show on WAMC-FM…

American Ride, due out later this month, is the latest in a string of superb albums from the New York-based guitarist/pianist. A hearty roar of hello greeted Nile, bassist Johnny Pisano and drummer Alex Alexander. Strapping on an acoustic guitar, Nile mentioned recent stops in Europe and Nashville, and asked the crowd, “Are you ready?!” The lead track to the new album, “This Is Our Time,” provided an answer his question, a carpe diem rocker with wordless harmonies. “Life on Bleecker Street,” also a new song, offered vignettes of Nile’s neighborhood to a propulsive beat by Alexander.

“The Innocent Ones,” a song of protest which Nile dedicated the children “going hungry tonight,” gave voice to the voiceless, punctuated by a melodic solo by Pisano and the crowd on its feet singing along to the chorus. “Things keep coming back to innocence for me,” remarked Nile who dedicated “She’s Got My Heart” to a pair of ardent fans who had driven more than four hours from Ontario. “Far Green Hills,” a song co-written with Frankie Lee on House of a 1000 Guitars, brought to mind Bobby Fuller Four meets the Byrds, especially given Pisano’s use of an octave pedal that lent a 12-string guitar vibe to his solos.

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LIVE: Willie Nile @ The Linda, 2/18/12

February 22nd, 2012, 3:00 pm by Greg
Willie Nile

Willie Nile

Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Al Goldberg

In an alternate universe, “American Idol” and its ilk do not exist; no one turns a blind eye to poverty or hunger; and a guitar is the only weapon of choice. All those visions and more came to life during a mesmerizing two-hour set by the incomparable Willie Nile at The Linda, recorded for future broadcast on WAMC-FM.

The Linda has been a perennial stop for Nile, whose performances have been jaw-dropping. With acoustic guitar in hand and bassist Johnny Pisano singing harmonies, Nile set the tone that this was going to be night for a full house to remember with “Singin’ Bell,” the rousing lead track to his acclaimed 2010 release, “The Innocent Ones.” That album’s title track, which Nile called “a prayer for compassion” in his introduction, seemed to channel the spirits of George Harrison and Joe Strummer. In a heartfelt, impromptu moment, he dedicated “Rich and Broken” to the late Whitney Houston, acknowledging her vocal talent as well as her fatal predilection for the trappings of fame.

Last autumn, Nile and Pisano toured the United Kingdom – be sure to check out the superb 2011 “Live: Hard Times in the U.K.” on River House Records) and had the chance to visit the childhood home of John Lennon. The story of that day was a riveting example of string theory, and the duo went into a spirited “My Little Girl,” a song they played in that Liverpool house’s porch, first in a cappella mode, then with instruments in hand, Pisano playing an extraordinarily melodic solo (just one of many virtuoso moments) reminiscent of Paul McCartney’s work on “Please Please Me.” Keeping in the Fab Four spirit, Nile went right into the shimmering “Her Love Falls Like Rain.”

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Five Firsts: Willie Nile

February 14th, 2012, 12:00 pm by Greg
Willie Nile

Willie Nile @ The Linda, 1/23/10 (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

NAME: Willie Nile
INSTRUMENT: Guitar, piano

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … “Meet The Beatles.” I saw them on Ed Sullivan’s show, and it changed my life. They were having such a great time, and the music was incredible. I’d heard about them before the show from friends at school. There was talk that they were a sensation in the UK. After seeing and hearing them, indeed they were.

I’d blast the music from my small, white, plastic record player. It made me smile. Up to that point, I was only buying singles – or 45’s as they were called. The first single I ever bought was “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly. Great record. Last year, I played a show in Austin, TX and Buddy’s wife Maria came to see me play. A mutual friend brought her and told her she “had to see this guy.” During my performance, he told me she leaned over to him and said, “He’s just like Buddy. He’s got the same energy as Buddy.” Needless to say I was deeply humbled. She bought two CDs and wanted me to sign them. I couldn’t believe it and told her that the first record I ever bought was “Peggy Sue.” She laughed, and we hugged, and it’s something I’ll never forget as long as I live. The photo from that day is at my website.

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LIVE: Willie Nile @ The Linda, 2/19/11

February 28th, 2011, 12:15 pm by Greg

This time, Willie Nile wasn’t on crutches, and he had more than twenty new and vintage songs to prove it.

A year ago, Nile played The Linda just days after tearing a calf muscle incurred while playing a Parkinson’s benefit with his good friend, Bruce Springsteen. It was a gutsy, inspired performance – easily one of the best concerts of the year in Albany.

On Saturday, February 19, Nile came back full of vigor and eager to deliver a batch of new songs from his excellent new album “The Innocent Ones” (River House Records), as well as songs dating back to the early days of his storied career.

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LIVE: Willie Nile @ The Linda, 1/23/10

January 26th, 2010, 4:20 pm by Greg

Willie Nile

Willie Nile

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.

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