6th April 2012
Just under a year ago, Willie Nile and his band played to about 80 people at the smaller of the two Cluny venues and tonight there were just 10 people short of the room’s 300 capacity. Such is the power of ‘word of mouth’ (and my review of the original show!).
Wearing the same jacket with “NYC Rock & Roll” emblazoned across the back and his magnificent head of hair looking like he’d been electrocuted, the veteran of CBGB’s Club in New York got Easter off to a blistering start with a 100mph version of Singing Bell that took the newcomers by surprise as the album version is mid-paced. But, before they could get their collective breath back, the band had rattled through Innocent Ones, Heaven Help The Lonely and Rich and Broken before Willie deigned to admit to ‘being a little bit hot’ and taking his sweat-soaked jacket off.
By now the mosh pit was in full swing as the middle-aged crowd attempted to re-live their youth.
It’s no secret that Nile is a friend of a certain B. Springsteen, esq., and when you see Willie play live it’s no great stretch of the imagination to believe this was the template for a teenage Bruce’s live shows.
Eventually Nile had to slow things down and played a couple of songs on the electric piano meaning we got to hear the clever lyrics and nuances in Streets of New York and Love is a Train which both pulled at the heart strings as Willie’s rasping voice sounded like he could break down in tears at any moment.
Suitably refreshed, Willie strapped on the well-worn Telecaster and led 290 acolytes in a clenched fist saluting shout-a-long to House of 1,000 Guitars which should be the second song every aspiring guitarist should ever listen to.
115 minutes after taking the stage Willie finally gave in to the numerous requests for his ‘anthem’ – One Guitar. It’s an argument for another day; but this just might be the one single song that sums up the power that Rock and Roll has had over countless generations across the world.
Without actually leaving the stage, the band returned for an encore and, after a short discussion, the opening de-de-dede-deh refrain to the Stones Satisfaction boomed out of the speakers. Before Willie took to the mic, the tune had morphed into the theme from Batman! The human dynamo from New York has always been talked about for his love of British pop music and this classic tune was tailor-made for a night like this. It had the crowd around me dancing even more manically; if that’s possible.
As the song came to an end, 40 or 50 40- or 50-year-olds were pressed against the stage like baying Beliebers desperately trying to shake the Man’s hand. He looked on slightly shell shocked before humbly thanking everyone for coming out on a Bank Holiday and waved goodbye.
That wasn’t enough and shouts and screams for ‘one more song’ were answered with an awe inspiring Road to Calvary. Finally Willie Nile left the stage only to turn up two minutes later at the Merch stand, shaking every hand that was proffered and signing what looked like 3 score of CD’s.
This was Rock and Roll in all its dirty, sweaty glory. A great night was had by all, including a road weary band.