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The Willie Nile Band ~ 2013 September 14 ~ Bull Run Restaurant ~ Shirley, MA

... by Joanne Corsano ...

Johnny Pisano
The world famous Johnny Pisano leap
Click on the picture
to see a photo gallery of the concert

Band Personnel: Willie Nile, lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano; Johnny Pisano, bass guitar, backing vocals; Alex Alexander, drums; Peter Hoffman, lead guitar, backing vocals

Set List

First 7 songs performed by Willie, Johnny and Alex:
This Is Our Time - Life on Bleecker Street - When Levon Sings - She's Got My Heart - American Ride - The Crossing {on piano} - Sunrise in New York City - {on piano}
Peter joined on lead guitar for the rest of the show:
That's the Reason - Run - Sing Me a Song - Not Fade Away {Buddy Holly} - House of a Thousand Guitars - The Innocent Ones - Road to Calvary - One Guitar ... encore ... Across the River {on piano}

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


"American Ride":

"The Crossing":

"Sunrise in New York City":

"That's the Reason":

"The Innocent Ones":

"Across the River":


Willie Nile and his band are currently riding the whirlwind of critical and popular acclaim for their new album. For the first time they brought their "American Ride" to the Bull Run Restaurant, in Boston's Metrowest. The building that houses this venue is an ancient stage coach stop and steeped in history; Willie was very impressed by this fact and seemed humbled and proud to be playing there.

The band made the trip up from New York City in the PiMobile, bass player Johnny Pisano's car. There was room for Johnny, his bass and pedals, there was room for Alex and a minimalist drum kit, there was room for Willie, his guitar, an amp or two and a few pieces of miscellaneous equipment. What's missing? No room for Matt, the lead guitarist. No problem; Willie called upon his old friend, the guitarist who played on his first two albums in the early '80s, Peter Hoffman, who lives in the Boston area, to sit in. Peter is a more economical guitarist than Matt, who tends to solo with emphatic enthusiasm, whereas Peter tends to keep things a little more sparse, playing in the service of the song. Both are great guitarists in their own right, and while Matt brings a youthful strut to the Willie Nile Band, you can't do better than the guy who toured on Willie's first ever concert tour, when they started their own American ride opening for The Who.

The show opened with Willie, Johnny and Alex performing two killer numbers from the new record, "This Is Our Time" (an instant singalong), and "Life on Bleecker Street." Next up was "When Levon Sings," a tribute to Levon Helm; I'm not sure if this was its debut performance, but I'd never heard it before. Willie encouraged singing along, but unlike many of his other songs it wasn't a natural singalong and fell flat in that regard. Next was the beautiful ballad from the new record, "She's Got My Heart," dedicated to disk jockey Meg Griffin (in attendance at the show). "American Ride" followed, and then Willie took a seat at the piano at stage left and performed "The Crossing" and "Sunrise in New York City," along with a story about the filming of a video for that song.

Peter then joined for the rest of the show. Willie has known Peter for more than half his life, and has stories upon stories to tell. He talked about his early days in New York hanging out at CBGB, listening to the band Television and calling his friends back in his hometown of Buffalo to try to get them to come listen to this music with him. He told a story about touring the country opening for The Who, and how Pete Townshend loved Willie's "Sing Me a Song." He told a story of meeting Buddy Holly's widow and being named an Official Embassador of Buddy Holly's Music. Along with the stories came the songs: "That's the Reason"; "Run"; a knock-em-dead "Sing Me a Song" (during which I saw Peter Hoffman indulge in a Pete Townshend-style windmill); Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." Then "House of a Thousand Guitars," with Johnny Pisano leaping for the ceiling with the pure joy of it; a heartrending "Innocent Ones"; a calming change of pace with "Road to Calvary"; and a rousing finale with "One Guitar."

Johnny Pi was particularly inspired tonight, doing those rock star leaps (he did a second one during "One Guitar"), jumping up on top of monitors, singing his heart out, making a lead guitar seem unnecessary with his sonic gyrations on "Life on Bleecker Street"; he was so enticing that at the end of "One Guitar" one of the women at my table lunged onto the stage to give the boy a hug (resulting in a huge ear to ear grin from both hugged and hugger) ... then the soundman led cheers and Willie and company returned for the moving "Across the River," during which Willie got so into the song he stood up and kicked the piano stool over backwards, and Peter's playing was just out of this world.

I've seen Willie Nile a dozen times and I think this was the best show yet. It was the first time that this configuration of the Willie Nile Band had played together (Peter and Alex had never even met before tonight).

Before the show, when I and my friends were settling into our front row table and ordering delicious pub sandwiches and salads, we looked over to a central table, and there was Willie Nile himself, visiting with Meg Griffin and just sitting there out in the middle of the restaurant. The fact that he doesn't consider himself a star, requiring a private room all to himself, is so refreshing. He really is a humble guy. He talks about not knowing where the music is coming from, at this point in his career when to all rights things should be winding down for him.

But instead of winding down, Willie Nile is better than ever and this night proved it, as this group of four fine musicians and friends treated this crowd to their own American Ride.

As a postscript to this review, I am pleased as punch that the Bull Run booked Mr. Nile since I suggested it to the soundman when I was there in the spring to see Dave Davies of the Kinks. In the ten years or so that I have been attending shows at the Bull Run I have come to consider it one of the the best concert venues in eastern Massachusetts. The venue was not quite sold out, but there was a good crowd and everyone, from the other concert goers to the servers and staff seemed to love Willie and his band, and I am hoping that Willie will make this a regular stop when he plays New England.

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