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The Willie Nile Band ~ 2016 February 2 ~ City Winery ~ Boston, MA

... by Joanne Corsano ... joanne@picturelake.com

Band Personnel: Willie Nile, lead vocals, rhythm guitar, piano; Peter Hoffman, lead guitar; Matt Hogan, lead guitar, vocals; Johnny Pisano, bass, vocals; Jon Weber, drums.

Set List

Runnin' Down a Dream {Tom Petty} - This Is Our Time - Cell Phones Ringing in the Pockets of the Dead - Forever Wild - Life on Bleecker Street - Heaven Help the Lonely - The Times They Are A-Changin' {Dylan} - Subterranean Homesick Blues {Dylan} - A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall {Dylan} - I Can't Do Crazy Anymore (Willie on piano) - Love Is a Train (Willie on piano) - If I Ever See the Light - (Peter Hoffman joins for the rest of the show): Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 {Dylan} - Golden Down - House of a Thousand Guitars - Blowin' in the Wind {Dylan} - One Guitar ... encore ... You Ain't Goin' Nowhere {Dylan}

Videos

This Is Our Time

The Times They Are a-Changin'

House of a Thousand Guitars

Review

Willie Nile and band played a better show than at the Narrows a few weeks ago. There were a lot of reasons for the improvement. They played more Dylan songs than at the Narrows show; this seems like the right thing to do considering he's promoting his album of Dylan covers (Positively Bob), and his rock 'n' roll reinterpretations of Dylan songs are really fun. It was also a much bigger audience. I suspect that the City Winery has substantial name recognition from being a national chain of nightclubs, probably attracting more concertgoers just for that reason; and from what Willie says, the venue treated him and the band really well.

The musicians had wireless connections to their electronics, meaning they could prance about the stage anywhere they wished without being constrained by electrical wires running to their guitars, and that added to the general energy level and fun the musicians were having. Willie played the piano on two songs (thank you Baby Jesus!), including the absolutely wonderful "I Can't Do Crazy Anymore," from Willie's piano album of a couple of years ago, If I Was a River. Perhaps the single most important reason for the improved show was the presence of Peter Hoffman, who joined the band on guitar for the final half dozen songs. Peter plays with a sparser style than Matt Hogan does, and I find his style very suitable to many of Willie's nuanced and melodic compositions.

Another improvement was that Willie talked more to the audience. He told some charming stories about his family. His father, Robert Noonan, turned 100 years old last November and still lives independently in Buffalo, New York. Willie's grandchildren, his 5 year old granddaughter and 3 year old grandson, are growing up rock music fans. The grandson has been heard to say he wants to hear the song "Johnny's In the Basement" (which of course is the first line of "Subterranean Homesick Blues"), and the 5 year old granddaughter likes to sing along with Dylan. Willie played for the audience a cell phone video of her singing along with "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall." Brilliant!

From the audience point of view, the new City Winery gets mixed reviews. I had my DSLR camera with me, hoping to get some good shots from my front row seat, only to be told I could not use a "professional" camera. No problem, at least I got some videos. The main defect of the club is the layout. It is long and narrow, and if you are seated in the back half or so of the room you are going to be really far from the stage. I'm sure that a different layout could have been designed for better visibility. Also, the tables are arranged perpendicular to the stage, meaning you are sitting at a 90 degree angle to the performers, and the chairs are so crowded that turning your chair to face the stage is impossible. On the plus side, the MC did request that the audience refrain from conversation during the show. I never could understand why people would pay money to go to a concert and then talk loudly among themselves instead of listening.

Another positive of the City Winery is that it is a very short walk from a subway station, Haymarket. And Haymarket is located just a few minutes' walk from Boston's historic North End, where concertgoers can get a great Italian meal before the show in numerous restaurants ranging from the casual to the upscale.

More Willie Nile

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