Beloved Songwriter Willie Nile Makes His Mark on Crowd at McCabe’s

willie nile photo by christina arrigoni


At 70 years old, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Willie Nile has incredible physical stamina.

Nile played an almost two-hour, acoustic show at McCabe’s. The New York native and the Big Apple’s unofficial poet laureate never seemed to break out in a sweat or stop to take a breather. His unflappable passion and zest for rock and roll is impressive and inspiring.

He can definitely give musicians half his age a run for their money. Watching Nile perform could be described as a master class for up-and-coming artists or bands. They could learn a thing or two about invigorating showmanship and crafting good memorable songs.

Willie Nile at McCabe's - Photo by Harriet Kaplan
Willie Nile at McCabe’s with Johnny Pisano – Photo by Harriet Kaplan

Political Topics in Songwriting

Nile’s material has staying power tackling serious issues that are topical, political and universal. Often set to a catchy beat, the songs are very melodic, and in turn, are infectious. Some of the numbers easily lent themselves to rousing sing-alongs with the polite but enthusiastic audience. Nile good-naturedly ribbed them about not drinking alcohol with a smile.

Willie Nile waitin' for the subway - Photo courtesy of Willie Nile
Willie Nile waitin’ for the subway – Photo courtesy of Willie Nile

Willie Nile the Storyteller

A great storyteller, Nile spoke easily and often. He shared his views about a myriad of subjects including touching on individuality and freedom of expression. Nile cited human rights violations with a particular emphasis on migrant children separated from their families and imprisoned.

Rock and ‘Fun with Spike’

He also talked about his career, family and education. Nile shared with the crowd he continues to believe music can change the world. He described his music as rocking and fun with some spike. Characterizing it as lot like himself, he said colorfully it was pissed off, in love and out of its mind.

During this tour, Nile typically plays an electric set with a full band lineup. But at this show, Nile was only accompanied by his bassist Johnny Pisano. Together, the talented and gifted duo create a big, full bodied and fleshed out sound. It was satisfying live.

Willie Nile - Photo by Harriet Kaplan
Willie Nile – Photo by Harriet Kaplan

‘Children of Paradise’ is New Album

The journeyman rocker is currently on tour promoting his upcoming 12th album. Children of Paradise is set for release on July 27. A number of new songs stood out during the strong set  included “Seeds of Revolution,” “Earth Blues,” Getting Ugly Out There,” “All Dressed Up and No Place To Go” and “Lookin’ For Someone.”

Nile is renowned for his diversity as a composer. His expansive catalog encompasses powerful rock songs, insightful folk rock and intimate acoustic balladry. Nile has even recorded an album of Bob Dylan covers.

Willie Nile among the guitars - Photo by Christina Arrigoni
Willie Nile among the guitars – Photo by Christina Arrigoni

Reminiscent of Bob Dylan

At McCabe’s, Nile actually sang and sounded a lot like Dylan. Over the years, he has gained admirers like Bruce Springsteen, with whom he has guested on stage. His influence has seemed to rub off on Nile. Based on this show, he performs with grandeur and the dramatic tension familiar to fans of “The Boss.”

Still, Nile made his own distinctive mark at McCabe’s. He is an original artist with a big, broad vision that garners audiences in the U.S. and internationally.