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Willie Nile Duo ~ 2013 March 8 ~ One Longfellow Square ~ Portland, ME

... by Joanne Corsano ...

Willie Nile and Johnny Pisano
Willie Nile and Johnny Pisano
Click on the picture
for a photo gallery of the concert

Willie Nile on lead vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano; Johnny Pisano on bass and backing vocals

Set List

note: songs from American Ride (Willie's upcoming album) are marked with {AR}.
Every Time the World Turns Around - Far Green Hills - There's No Place Like Home {AR} - Dooomsday Dance - She's Got My Heart {AR} - Holy War {AR} - Sunrise in New York City {AR} (piano) - Yesterday's Dreams (piano) - American Ride {AR} ... intermission ... The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls {Longfellow poem} - Vagabond Moon - Sing Me A Song - The Innocent Ones - House of a 1000 Guitars - Not Fade Away {Buddy Holly, but performed in the style of the Rolling Stones} - Back Home (piano) - The Crossing {AR} (piano) - Les Champs-Élysées ... encore ... One Guitar

Scroll down past the videos for review; click to the right for photo gallery.


"Vagabond Moon":

Concert Review

Concert Going Partner and I had spent a couple of days in Maine prior to the show, enjoying a mini-vacation, and thus we completely escaped the surprise winter snowstorm that struck lower parts of New England, and made Willie and Johnny's drive up from New York City more interesting than they would have liked. Willie says they almost slipped off the road ("and we weren't even drinking"). They got here safe and sound, and so did an enthusiastic, although modestly-sized crowd. We speculated that the competition of George Thorogood at the larger and more expensive State Theater may have kept Willie's numbers down. Those folks missed a great show.

This was our third time seeing Willie Nile at this excellent nonprofit venue. Those other show reviews are here: a trio show (with Peter Hoffman) last year in January and a duo show with Johnny in May of 2011.

We hadn't seen Willie in concert for over a year so we were more than ready for a hit of Nihilism, and we got it this night in the form of the Willie and Johnny show. Both were in good spirits and lookin' fine, both with more necklaces than the last time I saw them; Willie has two touches of red around his neck now. Johnny was sporting a dashing Islands tan, having spent some time in St. Barts ("working," I am told!).

Johnny's "lead" playing is better than ever. He has worked up a series of convincing lead riffs that flow out of his bass guitar (with the aid of a gadget called an octave pedal -- which to me sounds like a bicycle with eight wheels) that almost makes the audience forget there is no lead guitar. Along with Johnny's splendid, heartfelt backing vocals, this makes Johnny an entire one-man backing band.

The set list drew generously from the new album, American Ride, the release of which is scheduled for later this spring. In the first set, the two man band played nine songs, choosing spontaneously from a prepared set list of possibilities. They included five songs from American Ride. Two of these I had never heard before; "There's No Place Like Home," an instant -- (instant! like in the first appearance of the chorus) -- singalong, containing some very sophisticated rhymes featuring Columbus and Cortez. The very touching "She's Got My Heart" was also new to me in the first set. Willie also performed "Holy War," which he said some advised him not to include on the album because it is too dangerous. While listening, it occurred to me to interpret the song from the point of view of an innocent civilian in the mideast under a sky filled with U.S. drone planes. Shifting gears, Willie went to the piano to perform the jaunty and uplifting "Sunrise in New York City" and ended the first set with the moving "American Ride."

Since One Longfellow Square is at heart a folk club, an intermission was taken, during which the audience flocked to the bar for beer, wine, coffee and desserts (cookies! ... I shall return). This is the third time Willie has played at OLS, but the first time he acknowledged the Longfellow connection. He began the second set by reading a Longfellow poem, "The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls", noting that there is a statue of Henry Wadworth outside the venue, and calling him "the dude in the square."

Anyone can see that there is a real rapport between these two guys; Willie led the applause for Johnny Pi's playing on every song. He also generously praised the venue's soundman several times, but then started joking about paying him off with mushrooms. This comment was immediately followed by a few seconds of a psychedelic light show bathing the stage! That soundman sure was quick on the uptake. Willie was right; even from my preferred front row seat, the sound was superb, every note and every word as crisp as an oak leaf clinging to a winter branch.

The second set focused more on Nile classics, not so much on the new record. They played nine songs, all of which were certified crowd pleasers, from the first track on Willie's first album, "Vagabond Moon" (I took a video, a link to which is at the top of this page) to Willie's unofficial theme song, "One Guitar."

After the show Concert Going Partner and I joined some new friends for a Thai iced tea in the restaurant across the street, and then we maintained our long-standing tradition of getting lost leaving One Longfellow Square, winding up on Route 77 in South Portland instead of Rte. 1 heading back to Rte. 295 South. It all came out alright in the end.

More Willie

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 2013 Concert Page with links to all 2013 concerts ... Click for Main Concert Page with links to all years

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