Willie Nile at Cluny II, Newcastle
Cluny II Newcastle. November 5th 2011
I was in the third consecutive day of a serious case of ‘Man Flu’ when I forced myself off my deathbed (comfy sofa) to go and see Willie Nile play his first ever gig in Newcastle.
My nose was still running like a train when I entered the smaller of the two Cluny venues and saw that Mickey Kemp was already onstage. The Thames Troubadours’ mix of Folk and Country always gives great value for money and tonight was no exception. A couple of older songs, Blind Faith and Old Time Rag & Bone had a bit of extra bite tonight and, what was a new song to me – 1974 seemed to strike a happy chord with a lot of the middle-aged audience.
My head was still a little fuzzy when the diminutive New Yorker with the unfeasibly wild hair took to the stage, but by the end of opening song Heaven Help the Lonely; I was feeling like a teenager again as Willie Nile rocked the Cluny as if his and our lives depended on it!
Rich and Broken took on a whole new life as did Things Change and Streets of New York which all sounded nitro-fuelled compared to their original album versions.
Drummer Frankie Lee’s powerful tub-thumping and the driving bass of ‘Handsome’ Johnny Pisano kept a powerful beat all evening behind Brit; James Stevenson’s Punk Rock guitar and Nile’s punchy vocals.
My actually heart skipped a beat when I recognised the opening chords to my favourite Willie Nile song; House of 1,000 Guitars, and by the time it had ended it felt as if Rock and Roll had cured the Common Cold.
When the band finally played Cell Phones (Ringing in the pockets of the Dead) as an encore, sweat was running down my back; but by now it was Adrenaline induced and not from my ‘Man Flu!’
‘Cell phones’ is an ideal song to use as an example as to what makes Willie Nile great. The song is actually as deep and socio-political as Rock music gets, as it was written in the wake of a terrorist bombing of a European train but; played live it’s just a bloody good danceable Rock song.
Watching Willie Nile and his band in a small sweaty club must be one of the very best ways a music fan can spend an evening; so if you are a fan of the Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, Springsteen or the Clash and wished you had seen them play in a club, go see Willie Nile; you won’t regret it.