Willie Nile in good form at high-energy Hopewell Theater concert

Willie Nile concert review



Performing at the Hopewell Theater, Jan. 27, Willie Nile offered a story-filled night that gave the crowd a glimpse into the world of this rock ‘n’ roll grandfather.

“This place is only four months old and very clean; we’ll fix that,” said Nile and with that they ripped into his first number.

Pausing only for a quick four count, they next launched into Tom Petty’s, “Runnin’ Down a Dream” which Nile punctuated with a “God bless Tom Petty” at the end. He came “This Is Our Time.”

The Hopewell Theater is a dinner theater with booths lining the walls and tables with chairs set up all over the floor and a small balcony above. But on this night there was dancing in all available spaces; one could tell that the band was having a special evening.

A quick introduction of the band ended with, “This is a song that I wrote with Frankie Lee. I wanted to write one like AC/DC and this is what came out of it.” And he went back to 1999’s Beautiful Wreck of the World album as the opening chords of “Black Magic and White Lies” split the air.

“Golden Down” was next and then Willie was off to his recent successful Bob Dylan tribute album. “I recently did an album of Bob Dylan songs,” he began as the crowd reacted enthusiastically. “It was a total labor of love. The City Winery had contacted me and asked me to come play some songs to celebrate Bob’s 75th birthday. I was humbled. The Beatles, Stones and Bob Dylan were my influences and well, God bless Bob Dylan.” And they played an upbeat version of “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”

“I have four children and four grandchildren and it’s always cool to hear them say, ‘Grandpa you rock,’ ” Nile said. “But my one little 4-year-old always asks me to play the ‘Johnny’s in the basement’ song. So this song will forever be known as ‘Johnny’s in the Basement’ in my house. This version is what I imagine would happen if The Beastie Boys met Chuck Berry in the basement of the Bob Dylan Hotel.” And “Subterranean Homesick Blues” got the crowd revved up as Nile pounded his way through the timeless classic.

A pause to refresh and a notation that the theater is a BYOB establishment were next. “Since this place has no liquor license, I assume that you’ve all come completely drunk,” Nile said with a laugh. “One of the reasons that I made this record was so that my grandchildren would know who Bob Dylan was.” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” was the offering as the crowd continued to be held in reverent appreciation.

Stepping away from Dylan, Nile reached back a short way to his critically acclaimed American Ride album for “She’s Got My Heart” and “If I Ever See the Light.”

Dylan was again revisited as “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” was next on the list â€” once again, as was the case with all of the Bob classics, in an upbeat, rockin’ style.

“House of a Thousand Guitars” was followed by “Everybody Needs a Hammer” as Nile and the boys were gathering for a strong push to the finish line.

A hard-hitting version of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” was next with a very nice call-and-response featuring bassist Johnny Pisano and guitarist Matt Hogan along with a snappy but short drum solo by John Weber. A still raucous crowd, who were dancing in the aisles all night, were still very much raring to go when Nile hit his last tune, Dylan’s, “Blowin’ in ihe Wind.”

A quick “thank you and good night” was followed by a one-minute pause leading up to the encore of “One Guitar” and “You Gotta Be a Buddha (In a Place Like This).”

The 17-song set (including encores) was approximately an hour and forty-five minutes of high energy, fun-filled pure rock ‘n’ roll with more highlights then one can mention. Overall, the show was well worth the price of admission, and the Hopewell Theater is a great refurbished, intimate venue, and perfect for artists like Nile.


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1 comment

Brian O'Connell March 15, 2018 - 11:00 am

Great review of a Willie Nile concert. I bought his first album in 1980 and his most recent Dylan album too. Keep ’em coming, Willie!


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