Monday, October 21, 2013

Willie Nile Blasts Into SPACE, Proceeds to Rocket to the Core -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Willie Nile
SPACE, Evanston, IL
October 18, 2013

This is my third @@@@@ Willie Nile concert review in as many years (1, 2). If I was regularly writing this blog in 2009, I would have posted one then too.

For those unfamiliar with the 64-year-old New York rocker, and thus oblivious to the four superb studio albums he has released since 2006--his recording career dates back to 1980, but start with Streets of New York from '06 (though for some reason that one's not on Spotify)--and the stupendously good live shows that feel as if Bruce Springsteen collided with the Ramones, this might sound outlandish, excessive, deranged.

Or as though I were the president of the Willie Nile Fan Club, or perhaps one of his relatives.

I assure you other than a shared love of rock 'n roll--from Buddy Holly to the Beatles & Stones, all of whom he covered on Friday night at SPACE, as well as the Boss, Ramones, Clash and much else--there is no kinship between me and Willie Nile.

And while I have gladly posted his setlists to on a few occasions and see him every chance I get, I am not in any club. I am simply a fan.

The three previous times I've seen Nile--first at Martyrs' and the next two at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn--he's been backed by Chicago's Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra.

Not only has this saved Willie the expense of bringing a band to town, but it has made for outstanding
shows given the impressive instrumentation of the NTO (basically a large rock band), whose leader has been well-known locally for many years.

This time, Nile came with the bandmates who played on his latest album, American Ride. While this meant no opening set from the NTO--as has been the norm--and a bit less expansive sound, guitarist Matt Hogan, bassist Johnny Pisano and drummer Alex Alexander were terrific in their own right.

Nile opened with a couple new songs, "This is Our Time"--currently the "Coolest Song of the Week" on Little Steven's Underground Garage--and "Life on Bleecker Street," and would spotlight his new record throughout, but he also reached back to the recent and not-so-recent past with gems like "The Innocent Ones," "Heaven Help the Lonely" and a truly resplendent "Love is a Train" that brought him and the band a mid-set standing ovation.

During the main set, he and his band ripped through Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," and after having asked if Tremulis was in the house--to no avail at the time--and dedicating "The Crossing" to Nick's recently passed father, Tremulis showed up just before the encores. He joined the band for blistering versions of "A Hard Day's Night" (which I'd never heard covered outside of a Beatles tribute band) and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

After the show I bought a copy of American Ride and got it signed by Willie, who remembered me as having met and blogged about him before. And I told him that though everything he played sounded fantastic over the course of nearly 2 hours, he left out some of my favorites and easily could have pleased me just as much with an entirely different set.

As always, he was quite gracious, as he was throughout the night from the stage to a nearly full crowd at SPACE, where I  attended for the first time. I found it to be a comfortable venue, with even a general admission ticket affording me a seat just a few feet from the stage.

Willie also shared how his new album is selling gratifyingly well and that he has two more albums worth of material ready to go, but needs to find the money to record them, having utilized crowdsourcing in the past.

Wherever his American Ride continues to take him, I look forward to accompanying his musical journey, which seems to be  flowering more robustly than ever well into his mid-60s.

For not only did he deliver another astonishing show--if there is a more dependable club-level performer, I'm not aware--but if my mere $20 admission fee could anywhere have been better spent, I doubt I could have gotten, as his closing song would suggest, any greater satisfaction on this particular night. Or most others.

For a taste of Willie Nile live, here's a YouTube clip of him and his current band at a recent show, doing "This is Our Time" and "Life On Bleecker Street."

And for a bit more, these are clips I've shot and shared from shows in years past: "One Guitar," "Run" and "Hard Times in America."

1 comment:

Emile said...

Hey Seth - Great review of one of the nicest most empathetic individuals you could ever meet - thanks for using my video....Emile (114Emile)