Independent radio station WFUV, long a proponent of the eclectic, broadcasts regularly from Fordham University, and recently DJ Dennis Elsas introduced the mighty Willie Nile at City Winery, a smooth and sophisticated venue which also welcomes talent in a broad range of varietals.
A product of city life, Nile’s unabashed love for the urban spills forth from his songs. “What I didn’t learn from mom and dad, I learned from New York City,” he said, and proceeded to prove his bona fides with songs from his repertoire and his new album, American Ride, including ”Sunrise in New York City.” The title tune belongs to a long tradition of road songs, from truckers’ tales to “Get Your Kicks On Route 66,” although only a handful (I’d include Paul Simon’s “America” and “Graceland” among them) can match Nile’s poetry, as when he sings that America’s “untamed beauty got me on my knees.”
Nile’s band can just about keep up with the dynamo, whose onstage kneeling, leaping and all-around guitar-slinging make for a particularly visual show, apart from the energy in his songs. If you’ve seen enough shows, you can predict which song will end the set, but many of his songs have that grande finale feel to them. Name another performer who could have the whole house dancing to a tune called “People Who Died.” Go ahead, I dare you.
– Suzanne Cadgene