Nina DeVille

The Mac Wire Mini Review: Willy DeVille Birthday Celebration At BB King’s Times Square

by Anne M. Raso

I had one reason and one reason only to go to the Willy DeVille Birthday Celebration held at BB King’s in Times Square this past Monday night (only two nights from what would have been the legendary singer-songwriter’s 60th birthday): I wanted to see the original Mink DeVille back together and I wanted to see them jam with some of Willy’s later sidemen.
    I actually lost track of Willy and the boys after I interviewed them backstage at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ in Spring 1978 (and had actually hung out with the band sans Willy circa Summer 1977 in Franklin Lakes…their manager’s mom was friends with my mom in Franklin Lakes, NJ, now made famous as the setting for 
Real Housewives Of New Jersey). The original band seemed to get unceremoniously dumped while in LA to record the third Mink DeVille album (rumor has it the producer was at fault) and as purveyors of the punk scene will tell you, they were phenomenally talented but kept it more raw and pure rock ‘n’ roll than Willy’s later ensembles. I thought bassist Ruben Siguenza was an especially down-to-earth person and I remember his wallet disappearing from the Capitol Theater dressing room and when I talked to him after the BB King show on Monday night, he didn’t seem to remember this. But that was my main memory from that night other than Willy’s gold tooth and his wife Toots’ piercings (I had never seen either of those things before, to be perfectly honest).
      As for Monday night’s show, put together by DeVille’s multi-instrumental sidekick David Keyes, it provided some great blasts from the past and to see the original Mink DeVille group do “Gunslinger” (with a few of Willie’s later partners in crime nearby) was a very special moment, possibly not ever to be repeated.  Special guests included “mad scientist” axeman Richard Lloyd of Television fame (who played with Willy on several occasions), guitar slayer Steve Conte who did extensive touring with Willy and J. Geils crazyman howler Peter Wolf (who was basically just a Willy uber-fan). Original Mink DeVille axeman Louie X. Erlanger (who recently brought his bandmates back together for a phone-in conference on his radio show to discuss the old days), probably summed up Willy best by saying, “I admired Willy because he always stuck to his guns” before he and the rest of the “old Minks” performed (appropriately enough) “Gunslinger” from the
 Cabretta album. 
     The encore featured “Spanish Stroll,” probably one of DeVille’s Top Five most famous songs and it was touching to see so many talented people together who had played behind this misunderstood and tragic musical genius (about 25 great musicians seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely as they fought for just enough space to play on the small BB King’s stage). 
     Willy DeVille said he never would be fully appreciated until after he was gone, and this crowd’s reaction to this show might just be an omen of things to come in terms of Willy reaching “legend” status (many die-hard fans are circulating petitions online to get him nominated for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as well). 

The great Richard Lloyd at Willy DeVille’s Birthday Celebration singing and playing lead guitar on “White Trash Girl”–one of the most rocking (and unexpected) moments of the show!

Original Mink DeVille bandmates guitarist Louie X. Erlanger and bassist Ruben Siguenza performing  together for the first time in 30 years (here they are doing “Gunslinger”)!

Peter Wolf not only sang ‘n’ shimmied in his inimitable style but brought roses for Nina DeVille and longtime Willy backup singer YaDonna West and handed them out (or in Nina’s case, threw them out from the stage).

Current New York Dolls axeman Steve Conte was one of Willy DeVille’s later backup players—and he actually met his wife while on tour with Willy in Europe, circa Summer 2003.

The splashy encore of “Spanish Stroll” undoubtedly had enough “savoir faire” to have Willy smiling from the rock and roll heavens above.

Photos: Anne Raso