Willie Nile ~ 2012 January 28 ~ One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME
Band personnel: Willie Nile, lead vocals and guitar; Johnny Pisano, bass and backing vocals [lead vocal on one song]; Peter Hoffman, lead guitar
Singin' Bell - The Innocent Ones - I've Got a Girl - Rich and Broken - Holy War - The Crossing - Across the River ... intermission ... Sideways Beautiful - Run - House of a Thousand Guitars - When One Stands - Les Champs-Élysées - I Feel Good [Johnny on lead vocal] - Road to Calvary - Sing Me a Song ... encore ... One Guitar
Scroll down past the videos for review; photo gallery to the right.
This is my fourth visit to One Longfellow Square, an excellent venue on the western edge of Portland, Maine's art district. It is remarkably easy to get to as long as you realize the exit numbers on Rte. 95 in Maine now reflect distance from the border, as opposed to a random sequential numbering system. In other words, don't expect an Exit 43. Kudos to the highway engineers who figured out this extremely useful and informative exit numbering system, which should be adopted immediately by all 50 states.
We got a quick bite to eat at a Mexican eatery about a block past the venue on Congress Street, where in addition to a basic tostada I ordered an Eli's Ginger Beer, a local soft drink, which was really tasty. There is a number of restaurants along Congress Street within walking distance of the venue. The State Theater, where bigger name acts play when they come to Portland, is about two blocks down Congress St. past the venue.
We did get to the venue early, even by our standards, and wound up sitting in the car waiting for signs of a line forming. Walking past the venue after eating we peaked in and were able to see the musicians sound checking, and to our delight saw that Peter Hoffman had made the trip up from the Boston area to play guitar, after all. Last night he had told us he had to work today (at his day job) and would not be able to come along. As much as the Willie/Johnny duo is a great combo, I think I like it better when there is a real lead guitar in the band.
We stood in line with two guys who had copies of Willie's first two records on vinyl for him to sign (Willie Nile and Golden Down). One of the guys thinks he may have stood in line with us before while attending a Graham Parker concert at this venue. Once the doors opened we found seats in the front row between Johnny and Willie. This venue has a good big stage, plenty of room, and before the show has a slide show of upcoming attractions, which gives you something interesting to look at while waiting. There are about eight rows of seats (folding chairs) and three rows up in the balcony. Once the music started, it was clear that Willie's shoulder was still painful, but that it had improved somewhat from the night before, when the discomfort he was suffering from his shoulder injury was truly alarming. He was in much better spirits.
The set list was similar to the Passim show the night before, but not completely the same. He added in the humorous "I've Got a Girl," apparently making up some new stanzas on the fly. He added in "Les Champs-Élysées," and again performed my favorite song of his, "Run" (a song I love because I am a runner). "When One Stands" was another great jam. I must mention that Peter Hoffman sounded fantastic on guitar both nights. I think he was a little rusty when he first started playing with Willie again a couple of years back, but there's no rust on this guy any more; he was smokin' both nights. He and Johnny together form a great band for Willie. Drummer is not required!
The practice of this venue is to have the artist perform two sets, and it was nice to have an intermission, since it allowed us to get a dessert. Although they don't serve meals, this venue always has scrumptuous home-made desserts, and I had a chocolate chip cookie while concert going partner had a macadamia nut cookie. Bravo to the cookie bakers!
Although his shoulder was better, Willie was still in pain, and again invoked the spirit of James Brown with declarations of "I Feel Good!" But instead of just asking Johnny to utter one completely convincing James Brown OOOWWW! into the microphone, Willie got him to sing the whole song! Johnny did not know ahead of time that Willie was going to ask him to sing "I Feel Good"; and whether Willie knew it ahead of time, he is keeping to himself. While Johnny was singing, Willie was enjoying himself tremendously, grinning from ear to ear and playing along here and there on his rhythm guitar. Now, I have to emphasize that Peter Hoffman actually knowing "I Feel Good" was what made this work. He played the song, including the bridge, as if he'd been practicing; and Johnny sang, very convincingly, as if he'd been practicing. Johnny was fantastic! A STAR IS BORN! I really hope this becomes a regular feature of Willie shows; but if not, I feel so privileged to have witnessed it.
Willie again featured a couple of songs from his upcoming album ("Holy War" and "The Crossing") and finished the encore with a rousing, singalong "One Guitar."
Although we had no trouble getting to the venue, getting back to the highway after the show was a challenge because Congress Street suddenly becomes one way the wrong way before getting back to Rte. 295. Those smart highway engineers who came up with the clever exit numbering system didn't think of putting any signs to the highway from this direction (you can't have everything), but we guessed correctly that a left turn would get us to where we were going.
Interested in my other Willie Nile reviews? Here is a page with a handy list of links to all pages on this website with Nihilist content.
Click for 2012 Concert Page with links to all 2012 concerts ... Click for Main Concert Page with links to all years