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Willie Nile: Live from the Streets of New York
Willie Nile Live from the Streets of New York
Actors: Willie Nile, Jimmy Vivino, Rich Pagano, Brad Albetta, Frankie Lee
Director: Casey McGrath
Genres: Music Video & Concerts
NR     2008

2008 DVD release of Willie Nile: Live From The Streets Of New York. The DVD features 14 videos with song by song commentary, special bonus documentary with exclusive clips and interviews of Willie with the band plus an in...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Willie Nile, Jimmy Vivino, Rich Pagano, Brad Albetta, Frankie Lee
Director: Casey McGrath
Genres: Music Video & Concerts
Sub-Genres: Pop, Rock & Roll
Studio: Megaforce
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 07/22/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

Movie Reviews

Heartfelt and fiery live take of Nile's brilliant 2006 LP
hyperbolium | Earth, USA | 07/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Rock `n' roll albums have become a sadly scarce commodity. Sure, there's indie rock, punk rock, modern rock and all manner of hyphenated descendants, but few artists still make rock music with roots that reach through all of the layers of decades past. The "'n' roll" has been lost in the translation. Luckily, New York-bred Willie Nile is one such artist, born just in time for early exposure to Presley, Holly and Domino, steeped in the Greenwich Village folk revival and reignited by the `70s punk explosion. His recording career came of age in the early '80s with a pair of albums for Arista, was derailed by legal setbacks with Geffen for the second-half of the decade, and restarted in 1991 with "Places I Have Never Been" on Columbia. Nile attracted A-list fans during his hiatus, and the comeback featured guest appearances from both Roger McGuinn and Richard Thompson.

The pattern of long gaps between releases repeated itself several more times. His deal with Columbia ended, he released an indie EP ("Hard Times in America") in 1992, and dropped out again until decade's end, when he released "Beautiful Wreck of the World." Another seven years passed until he released his tour de force, "Streets of New York." This was the culmination of everything that had gone before, both musically and personally, meshing life experiences ("The Day I Saw Bo Diddley in Washington Square") with philosophical wanderings ("Back Home") into a superbly vivid portrait of a musician and the city that served as his art's crucible. Praise for "Streets of New York" came even before the album's official release, and it was with that positivity ringing in his ears that Nile took the stage for the album's release party at New York's Mercury Lounge, resulting in the live recording captured here.

Working through ten of the album's thirteen tracks, and adding a handful of titles from earlier releases, Nile knew he had the goods. He's not selling a new album, he "was simply there to serve the songs, to tell the stories and hopefully do justice to the music." Nile's regular road band and guests (Andy York, Brad Albetta, Rich Pagano, Jimmy Vivino and Frankie Lee) burned through the album titles in the sort of heartfelt, fiery and well-oiled performance one expects at the end of the tour, rather than the start. These songs clearly hit just as much of an emotional resonance with the players as they did with the writer and the audience, and the freedom of their performance, hitting all the notes yet still rocking it live, is truly impressive.

As on the studio album, the opening "Welcome to My Head" provides a Felliniesque vision of New York, laying out a surreal map of the album's visions. The artistic beehive of Greenwich Village is captured in the Pogues-like rock-waltz, "The Day I Saw Bo Diddley in Washington Square," brought even further to life on stage by its sing-a-long chorus. The weary, wordy talking-blues shuffle "Back Home" derives from Dylan and Forbert, but Nile's poetic images are more anchored (and less fantastic) than Dylan's, and his sung passages are more melodic than Forbert's. The song's insistent piano riff is beautifully echoed in the title refrain, and the lyrical nod to "Bells of Rhymney" ("We sailed across a sea of time / We smoked the weed, drank the wine / Heard the bells of Rhymney chime") provides a link to Nile's past fascination with the folk revival.

Even those songs not directly about New York, such as "Asking Annie Out" and "Best Friends Money Can Buy," or earlier titles like 1980's "Vagabond Moon" and 1981's "Heaven Help the Lonely" retain the city's passionate emotional air. "Cell Phones Ringing in the Pockets of the Dead," written about the 2004 Madrid train bombing, can't help resonate deeply on an album dedicated to New York City, and the 1992 title track from "Hard Times in America" proves startling portentous as the gap between rich and poor widens and the U.S. economy threatens to nosedive. The set closes with a breathless Clash-styled cover of "Police on My Back" and Nile's love song to his city, "Streets of New York," the latter sung solo at the piano.

A similar live set was released in 2007 as "Live at the Turning Point," but while the song list included a generous helping of titles from "Streets of New York," the poor quality of the recording was a disappointment to fans. No such problems here, as the set was professionally recorded for release on both CD and DVD. Between-song chatter is kept to a minimum, filling out the CD with 68 minutes that's nearly all music. The multi-camera video on the DVD is sharp and shows off an informal club setting seemingly at odds with the grand nature of the music being played. Bonus material on the DVD includes interviews with Nile and band members, and a few glimpses of show rehearsals. The stars truly aligned for this show: great new material, a band of seasoned players, and an artist infused with the knowledge that he'd finally written the songs of his lifetime. [©2008 hyperbolium dot com]"