The Memorial Opera House, with the help of Rob Harkel, founder of BrightSide Music, proudly welcomed back Willie Nile to the newly-renovated venue for a remarkable fifth time.
“We are very proud to be able to bring Willie back to Valparaiso,” said Harkel. “We couldn’t be any happier to see him here again. He’s been here five times now, and he’s become sort of a staple here. People ask every year for us to bring him back.”
Harkel says that one of the reasons for Willie’s popularity here in Valparaiso in the energy that he brings to his concerts.
“He’s really a no-brainer. Even though he’s New York-based, the folks here seem to have a comfort level with him. They enjoy his music and his sincerity. He’s always welcome here.”
Nile and his band were in town to help promote his new album, World War Willie. An accomplished songwriter, Nile presented a high-energy show, including a mixture of original pieces and covers.
“Valparaiso is a special place. It’s a cool place, and the Opera House is an amazing place to play. It’s really one-of-a-kind,” said Nile. “There’s really no other place like it. There’s history here.”
Nile says that the show would be dedicated to the memory of Chuck Berry, who passed away earlier in the day at the age of 90.
“Chuck was close to everybody. There would be no Rolling Stones without him. There would be no Beatles, no Bob Dylan. He influenced everybody.”
With a career stretching all the way back to 1980, Nile's musical journey includes highlights such as touring and playing with Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, The Who, and many more. Nile credits his longevity to taking a break from the business.
“Songwriting is what I do. I’d do it no matter what else I was doing. One of the benefits of walking away, of taking a break for ten years the way I did, was that I never got burned out. I wasn’t on the road. That’s why I still have the energy now. These songs are meaningful to me. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t record them. I wouldn’t be here,” said Nile.
Opening for Nile was singer/songwriter and local Valpo resident, Leslie Nuss.
“Rob asked me if I had the backline - the amps and such - and said that I could open for Willie, if I wanted. It all really just sort of worked out great,” said Nuss. “Willie and I have actually worked with some of the same people. Some very talented, amazing people. This is just such an honor to be here with him tonight.”
Nuss is currently working on her latest album, a double-EP, tentatively called V.
“V, as in Roman numeral for five,” said Nuss. It’s sort of a theme, with many of the songs on the EPs featuring that letter in the title.”
Kevin and Jenny Finnery came all the way from Frankfort, IL. “We are season ticket holders. Rob Harkel and I go back a long time. We love what he’s done here, his contribution. If we were going to move, we would absolutely consider Valparaiso. We love coming here - it’s worth the drive, and all the restaurants and other things that Valparaiso has to offer, it all keeps up coming back.”
During the show, Nile dedicated his performance of the song “Grandpa Rocks” from his new album, World War Willie to the memory of Chuck Berry. Other songs included “One Guitar,” “The Innocent Ones” and many others. The evening’s entertainment concluded with an encore, featuring a cover of the Beatles’ “Hard Days Night,” with Nile inviting Nuss to join him on stage.
After the show, Harkel was happy to look forward to the rest of the 2017 BrightSide Music series, featuring Roger McGuinn, Honeyhoney (an American alternative folk group based in Los Angeles, California), and Michael McDermott.
“I’m thrilled with the way tonight’s concert went,” said Harkel. “We’re happy to bring this entertainment to Valpo.”
For more information about upcoming concerts or other events, visit the Memorial Opera House online at www.memorialoperahouse.com, and be sure to find BrightSide Music on Facebook for the latest updates.