MiG Music 2022
One celestial rhapsody for heaven to stand still: one of the greatest rock vagabonds bows out but gives his audience everything.
Willy DeVille was born with an old soul, yet it took the stripping of his initial pirate glamour to reveal the grime and grit of the American artist’s true colors that shocked the most at the final stretch of his life. Eighteen months after the show documented on this disc, the legendary musician passed away from cancer, and what’s preserved for posterity here sounds as if his soul felt the proximity of purgatory. Clean for years, DeVille seemed to have changed a lot since his substance-fueled days, but remained faithful to his heart, so the recording of Bremen’s concert, a riveting performance on all counts, is a testament to Willy’s talent and willpower.
Accompanied by a robust ensemble that establish the spirit of the evening with an effervescent instrumental opener, the veteran enters the stage to the infectious sounds of “So So Real” – a number from “Pistola” which was issued only a fortnight earlier and would become DeVille’s last-ever album – to admit right away that he “ain’t no rocket, just a shooting star” before cutting to the chase and unleashing “Spanish Stroll” from his band’s debut platter. Delivered in a Dylanesque whine, neither this ’70s classic nor the slider-polished “Venus Of Avenue D” nor the riff-laden, raucous “Savoir Faire” don’t lose an iota of its scintillating appeal, while the heroin-hurt hero of “Chieva” – whose New Orleans gloom is shoot through with the vocalist’s harmonica and the catchy call-and-response – and a nightmarish reimagining of “Heartbreak Hotel” have an enhanced honesty when sung about in Willy’s freshly acquired husk of a voice.
However, it will easily turn to a ragged bluesy wail for “Trouble In Mind” and “Bacon Fat” and – where, respectively, Darin Brown’s ivories and Mark Newman’s electric six strings shine only to get transformed into acoustic lace on the tremulous “Heart And Soul” – and for “Muddy Waters Rose Out Of The Mississippi Mud” that’s ingeniously stuck between the punk sneer of “White Trash Girl” and the Latino-tinged brilliance of “Demasiado Corazon” which DeVille’s collective make a perfect, flaming foil for reggae twang of “Been There Done That” off his latest offering. Having flown off the handle in a histrionic way, Willy serves up a roaring take on “Italian Shoes” and the mischievously unhinged reading of “Hey! Joe” – and the swampy “Cadillac Walk” too, showing his unique swagger until a brief pause and the piano-encrusted, heartfelt encore of “Let It Be Me” bring out the emotionality in his approach to a tune.
Sadly, the end was near, yet this disc presents Willy DeVille’s vitality in all its eternal glory.