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Rock’s Real Deal: James Maddock and Willie Nile at Landmark

Maddock (left) and Nile singing "One guitar"
Maddock (left) and Nile singing "One guitar"
I confess that prior to Friday night’s double bill of James Maddock and Willie Nile, I knew very little about either performer. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that while I may have heard their names, I had not heard their music. Poor me.

Luckily, this was remedied with an absolutely outstanding shared bill by both performers and their full bands. The experience only cemented something I’ve said before – sometimes it’s the musicians you’ve never heard of who turn out to be the most amazing.

The rest of the audience clearly WAS familiar with Maddock and Nile, and were enthusiastic from the start. James Maddock started the show, accompanied by a full band consisting of drums, bass, piano/keyboards, and electric guitar. Maddock played acoustic guitar and harmonica, and carried the vocals with his raspy, powerful, Bruce Springsteen-like voice.

Maddock is a superb songwriter, and his musicians are equally superb performers who could pull off the layers of texture and nuances in his music. He’s no slacker in the lyrics department either. His songs feel intense and personal, and he performs with gusto. (Perhaps that’s what made this concert so special – both performers gave it EVERYTHING they had).

Picking highlights from this performance is particularly tough since there were so many standouts – for example, the hypnotic “What Have I Done,” from Maddock’s latest CD, Another Life, or “Wake Up and Dream” from the CD of the same name. He performed the lovely “Sunrise on Avenue C” with just his piano player before being joined by the full band for an explosive version of “Chance,” where his vocals sounded a bit reminiscent of Rod Stewart.  But possibly my favorite of the evening was the love song, “Beautiful Now.”

At this close of his performance, Maddock said that he was glad to be opening for his friend, Willie Nile, rather than playing after him. I couldn’t understand this at the time, because I couldn’t imagine that the next act could possibly compare – but I certainly understand the comment now.

When WFUV’s great DJ, John Platt, introduced Willie Nile, he mentioned that he was a three time grandfather, but the man who bounded onto that stage surely didn’t look or sound like what I imagine a grandfather to be. Nile’s band included some outstanding musicians – Matt Hogan on guitar (who just burned up the stage), Alex Alexander on drums, and bassist Johnny Pisano (who I witnessed leaping over the guitar amps in an athletic feat at least twice). Nile played guitar, and at times, piano.

Exuberant, energetic, explosive, enthusiastic… these all describe Nile perfectly. EVERY song was like a finale. This performance was high-energy from beginning to end, and unbelievably enjoyable. Nile performed many songs from his latest CD, American Ride, including the title track, “Life on Bleeker Street,” “Sunrise in New York,” “This is Our Time,” and “People Who Died.” Standouts included “The Innocent Ones” and “House of a Thousand Guitars” from albums of the same name. Nile has a strong powerful voice, a little reminiscent of Lou Reed, which made perfect sense when Nile said that he’d been greatly inspired by Reed’s band, The Velvet Underground. Without a doubt, the highlight of Nile’s performance was an absolutely standout … dare I say “awesome”… version of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane.” Wherever Lou Reed may be, I’m positive that he both heard and approved of Nile’s tribute.

Nile closed the show by inviting Maddock out to perform “One Guitar” with Nile and his band. Nile and Maddock are both based in New York, and if you have a chance to see them, don’t miss it. Thank you to WFUV’s John Platt for suggesting this incredible pairing, and thanks to Landmark for making it happen.

Next show at Landmark is Jon Anderson, the voice of YES, on March 29th, 2014. For more info, visit www.landmarkonmainstreet.org.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

F E Iorio March 24, 2014 at 11:46 PM
One Guitar was written by Willie Nile not Springsteen
Ann W. Latner March 25, 2014 at 02:00 PM
You are correct! That's for catching that. Will revise.
Woods Way March 28, 2014 at 10:34 AM
Willie and James are as good as it gets!!


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