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.