Sunday, July 1, 2018

Willie Nile at McCabe’s, 6-30-18 Concert Review

Willie Nile performing "Les Champs Elysees"
What a treat it was to see Willie Nile last night at McCabe’s in Santa Monica. McCabe’s is one of my favorite places to see artists perform. It’s an intimate venue, and the crowds that attend shows there are made up of real music lovers. And artists like to perform there, so they tend to put on excellent shows. When Willie Nile took the stage just after 8 p.m. last night, accompanied only by Johnny Pisano on bass and backing vocals, he mentioned another reason why it’s a pleasure to play there: the guitars hanging on the walls “hum during the show with the sound.” Indeed they do! Willie Nile then kicked off the show with “Seeds Of A Revolution,” the opening track from his new album, Children Of Paradise. Much of the show focused on this album. That was good news for those of us who attended, because Children Of Paradise is among Willie Nile’s very best albums. Also, because much of the material is fairly new, the show had a delightfully loose vibe, since the music hadn’t been over-rehearsed.

“Seeds Of A Revolution” was followed by “Life On Bleecker Street,” a cheerful-sounding song from his 2013 release, American Ride. Willie Nile had a natural rapport with the crowd, and often spoke between songs. Before “This Is Our Time,” he talked about how the song was used as the theme for a speech by Malala Yousafzai that The Voice Of America hosted. “This Is Our Time” is also from American Ride, and is an absolutely wonderful and positive song. “This is our time/This is our place/This is our moment in the human race.” Something that’s good to remind ourselves of these days. Johnny delivered some cool work on bass on this one. After that song, Willie Nile talked about his new album, mentioning that the title comes from a 1940s French film. About the new release, he said, “It’s on fire, pissed off, in love and out of its mind all at the same time, much like myself.”

He then did several songs from the new album, starting with “Getting’ Ugly Out There.” When he sang the line “Does anybody even care,” I couldn’t help but think that Melania Trump certainly doesn’t. And when he sang, “There’d be another politician who’d be dead and gone,” some folks applauded. So I knew I was among friends. He followed that with the fun “All Dressed Up And No Place To Go,” first talking about being a philosophy major in college. And the energy of this song was just perfect. He then did “Don’t,” which was the song I was planning on requesting. “The original title was ‘Don’t Let The Fuckers Kill Your Buzz,’” he told us. This is a great rocking punk tune, and it featured more excellent stuff on bass. The audience sang along, which was wonderful. That was followed by “Earth Blues,” the song I want Scott Pruitt to hear.

In introducing “American Ride,” Willie Nile said, “This is a song about a journey across America.” He then added, “I love the dream that is this country.” That’s how a lot of us feel, and we have to remind ourselves of it. The dream is good, and the current nightmare will come to a close at some point. At least, I remain hopeful that it will. It was a really good rendition of “American Ride,” by the way, with the bass becoming the lead instrument. The audience sang along. Afterward, as Willie moved to the upright piano, someone shouted out a request for “Oatmeal Box.” Willie replied, “I love that song, I’m not going to do it,” which got a big laugh from the crowd. He also mentioned the binder containing his song lyrics, which he had on a stand next to him, and which he then moved to the piano. The song he chose was the beautiful and moving “Yesterday’s Dreams.” This was a gorgeous rendition, one of the highlights of a fantastic night. “Things we said yesterday, we don’t say them anymore/Now I’m standing in the rain with yesterday’s dreams.” This song always manages to get right to me. He followed that with “Sunrise In New York City,” a fun and uplifting tune that makes me feel good, and then “All God’s Children,” which he performed solo on piano.

He then switched back to acoustic guitar for “Children Of Paradise,” the title track of the new album. Before playing it, he mentioned his recent trip to Spain. “We stayed in a nunnery. Where else would we stay? For real. The promoter knew a priest, and there was this convent. Gee thee to a convent.” I mention this here because, as a huge Shakespeare fan, I appreciate the play on the line from Hamlet, and figured perhaps others would appreciate it too.  He followed “Children Of Paradise” with “Sing Me A Song,” a song from his first album, and one he dedicated last night to his son, who was in the audience. Willie and Johnny really rocked out on this one, jamming at the end. Very cool. He then returned to the new album for one of my favorite tracks, “Have I Ever Told You.” This is a song that makes me feel that things are going to be all right, for it focuses our thoughts and energy on what is most important in our lives, the people we love. “When you whisper in my ear/All my troubles seem to just disappear.” Yes. He followed that with another excellent song from the new album, “Lookin’ For Someone,” a song he wrote with Andrew Dorff (the album is dedicated to his memory).

“House Of A Thousand Guitars” of course seemed a perfect choice to play at McCabe’s, where the guitars on the walls were humming. The audience appreciated the choice, and sang along. Willie Nile then ended the set with “One Guitar,” a song from The Innocent Ones. This is a song that feels more pertinent and important than ever. Willie, in his introduction to the song, said: “I believe that music can change the world. Here’s a song about one guitar and one voice.” A beautiful and empowering conclusion to the set, and the audience joined in on the chorus. The encore was “Les Champs Elysees,” a rocking song from Golden Down to get everyone feeling damn good. The show ended at 9:55 p.m.

Set List
  1. Seeds Of A Revolution
  2. Life On Bleecker Street
  3. This Is Our Time
  4. Gettin’ Ugly Out There
  5. All Dressed Up And No Place To Go
  6. Don’t
  7. Earth Blues
  8. American Ride
  9. Yesterday’s Dreams
  10. Sunrise In New York City
  11. All God’s Children
  12. Children Of Paradise
  13. Sing Me A Song
  14. Have I Ever Told You
  15. Lookin’ For Someone
  16. House Of A Thousand Guitars
  17. One Guitar 
  1. Les Champs Elysees
"House Of A Thousand Guitars"
"One Guitar"

McCabe’s is located at 3101 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, California.

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