Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Willie Nile at City Winery

Robert Noonan was born and raised in a musical family in Buffalo, New York. He began playing piano at age eight and took classical music lessons until he was a teenager, when he taught himself his first rock and roll song. He soon began to compose songs and made summer trips to New York City's hootenanny clubs. Reimagined as a singer-songwriter named Willie Nile, after college he rented an apartment in Greenwich Village and soon became one of its latter-day troubadours, gaining the attention of the Who's Pete Townshend, Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams and many more. Nile released his 10th album, World War Willie, on April 1, 2016.

Headlining at City Winery tonight, Nile opened with a solo song at the electric piano, giving credibility to his sensitive songwriter side, but then for most of the evening that facet was hidden under his street-tough guitar-slinging exterior. If the listener could get past the pounding of his delivery, one could find pensive lyrics that revealed the grittier side and the hopes of a New York lifer. These passionate lyrics could have gotten all Billy Joel on the listeners, but instead Nile led his band through a charge of much rowdier vibrancy not too far removed from a Bruce Springsteen experience. Throughout the set, Nile remained true to his own uniqueness, whereby comparisons to other New York-area powerhouses were irrelevant beyond their common geographical inspiration. Nile shared his stories his way, and it rang sincere.

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