Date: December 26th 2014
Opening Act: Matt Butler
What a way to end 2014 with an awesome Willie Nile concert at Highline Ballroom. Willie played New York City for his annual holiday show the day after Christmas and singer/songwriter Matt Butler opened up the show. I would have had this review up sooner except when I returned from this show, my macbook pro’s video card crapped out and I had to buy a new computer. So if you anyone is feeling generous, feel free to buy some prints from me to help a fellow “Nileholic” out! Besides that buzzkill, this concert was great!
I never heard of Matt Butler before but he’s a similar singer/songwriter to Willie. Maybe he has more of a Americana/folk sound than Willie though. I don’t know any songs he played but liked what I heard. I thought I might have recognized the last song, it sounded like John Mellencamp or someone like that. Could be wrong though. Either way, Matt and his band were a good & fitting opener to Willie Nile.
Willie Nile, Johnny Pisano, Matt Hogan and Alex Alexander hit the stage and opened up with “Welcome to my Head.” They were rockin’ from the start and then went into “Life on Bleeker Street.” Hearing that one never gets old.
It wouldn’t be a holiday show without Willie covering a traditional tune. They did a blazing rock and roll cover of “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” complete with guitar solos. Speaking of guitar solos, Matt Hogan was amazing that night. It seemed like each song he was just wailing on the guitar, hamming it up in front of the stage. It certainly made for some awesome photos! At some point, bass player Johnny Pisano put on a wig and hat to match his blinking lights shirt. That got a nice chuckle from the crowd.
After that, a whistle player came out to play “Beautiful Wreck of the World,” which is one of the first songs I heard from Willie. Back in 2004, I believe that was Willie’s latest album and he was playing a bunch of tunes for that when he opened for the Saw Doctors in NYC. Another highlight was hearing “Heaven Help The Lonely,” although I wish Willie and the band would play “Places I Have Never Been.” That’s still my favorite song from him hands down.
After that, Willie played a few piano tunes. “Sunrise in New York City” off American Ride, and then “Lost,” from his newest piano ballad album If I Was a River. Hearing him tell the classic story of him interacting with John Lennon right before he got shot brought a tear to my eye. So heartbreaking.
Finishing off the set, the band played more outstanding songs like “Hard Times in America,” Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” and of course “One Guitar.” “One Guitar” is never complete until Willie gets some guests on stage. He invited Matt Butler on stage as well as a trumpet player who plays with Lady Gaga. Such a fun song! Willie came back to play one more song for the encore, and it was Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.” I guess they had to cut the set short since there was something after the show. I would have loved to have heard “House of a Thousand Guitars” or “Run” but it wasn’t meant to be that night.
Willie Nile puts on such an entertaining show that even if you don’t know any of his music, you’ll become a fan by the end of the set. Be sure to see him live next time he’s in your town and be sure to get his latest album If I Was A River.
Here are some photos from the show, I’ll have more up at SkaPunkPhotos.com soon!