Willie Nile launched his music career as a folk singer, but he was very much a rocker at City Winery tonight. Nile sang stories and strummed an electric guitar or sometimes just wielded a microphone while the three-piece band behind him played a driving wall of sound. The set featured six new songs, a smattering of somewhat older songs (the oldest being 1991's "Heaven Help the Lonely"), and covers of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane," and David Bowie's "Heroes," concluding the encores with the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night." Towards the end of the set, Nile invited onstage several local musicians, including James Maddock and Patricia Vonne. What united the set was a sense of integrity and maturity that pervaded every performance; the 67-year-old singer-songwriter was equal parts music fan and musician, and so he approached every song with reverence. What was missing, however, was the more nuanced, reflective songs of his earlier days. Perhaps the set would have been just a bit better if Nile had performed a few solo acoustic songs mid-set.
Visit Willie Nile at www.willienile.com.