Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Motorco Music Hall, Durham
Sunday, November 12, 2017
It was dark and raining on the corner of Rigsbee and West Greer streets when Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real's van, the Honeysuckle Rose, came to a stop out front of Motorco Music Hall in Durham. The iconic Western imagery engrained on its side served as a beacon to passing drivers that the Nelson Family Band was in town, in this case, an offshoot led by Lukas Nelson.
Based in Hawaii, Nelson has cultivated a career mostly on the West Coast, but in recent years, he has begun to add tour stops in the Carolinas. Unsurprisingly, Nelson’s first headlining stops in the state were out on the coast in Wilmington. But Nelson's mid-November Durham show was Nelson’s first proper stop in the Triangle, co-headlining with Nikki Lane. Outside of the second-hand bus and at times a striking vocal similarity, Nelson relies little on the laurels of his famed father, Willie Nelson. Instead of following the nylon-picking, ballad-singing tradition, Lukas Nelson harnesses his Texas-born power to join a long line of wailing guitar players in the vein of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Nelson's Promise of the Real band is loose and limber, with the ability to expand or contract Nelson’s songs depending on where he wants to takes the evening. Before the show, a man from Missouri who said he was following the group on tour told me that there was no rhyme or reason to each set, even if fundamentally the setlist remains the same. Some song versions could be over ten minutes long, while others nights, right at three and a half.
The man's point was that the flow of the show is dictated by the feeling of the people in the room and the players on stage. At Motorco, Nelson and company performed for about two hours. Highlights included songs off of his new self-titled album, with “(Forget About) Georgia” serving as a standout and an ode to his history performing the famed Ray Charles number with his father.
Dipping into his own back catalog by audience request, “Want Me Around,” and the newer “Just Outside of Austin” served as a mid-set band break of Nelson solo on stage with a Gibson acoustic guitar. Nelson also treated the crowd to a few covers of tunes by Tom Petty, Bonnie Raitt, and Nelson’s now two-time collaborator Neil Young, who’s birthday also fell on the concert date. Nelson's rendition of “Cortez the Killer” served as a ferocious final song for the sold-out crowd and putting a big exclamation point on Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real's first club show in the Triangle.
Below are four clips from the evening’s performance.
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, “(Forget About) Georgia”
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, “Want You Around”