SXSW is still one of the world’s largest music festival and conference, even if the technology part has surpassed the music part in the number of attendees some years ago. At the music festival more than 2000 bands play and fight for the attention of the total of about 8-10000 music industry people, press and the fans. On top of all the official showcases, there are partiers with live music all over town, many of these more like small festivals in themselves.
One of the artists this year with a lot of buzz around him is Lukas Nelson. He is the son of Willie Nelson, Austin’s uncrowned king of music, and has become one of my favorite artists to follow. Lukas has the rock star look, he is a great songwriter like his father, and even his voice reminds me of a young Willie Nelson. And Lukas makes no secret about his heritage, but without overdoing it. Musically he is more modern, and with his band Promise of the Real, he plays hard guitar driven Americana rock. Lukas and the band released a live album, “Live Endings” in 2012, and that is good introduction to his live sound.
At SXSW Lukas Nelson plays one official showcase and two parties. I was lucky to get a wristband to the Invite Only GSD&M party Monday night, where Lukas Nelson and Promise Of the Real were the headliner, playing a full 90 minutes set. He also plays a daytime showcase for Sun Radio on the Thursday of the festival, but that will be a shorter set.
At the concert we got to hear many of the songs from the band’s latest album, the self-titled Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real plus some of his older songs from the Live Endings album. I specially noticed the beautiful son Just Outside of Austin which was of course an appropriate song for the occasion. He also sang one of his newer songs with a funny intro: he once had a girlfriend called Georgia a relationship that ended on a not amicable note. While he also was a member of father Willie’s band, he had to play Ray Charles’ classic Georgia On My Mind every night, which made him write his song Forget About Georgia.
Other songs he sang were The Joint – which is about just that – Fool Me Once, Four Letter Word, Find Yourself and several other from the albums.
On stage Lukas Nelson is charismatic. He is very aware of the fans, doing his guitar solos at the front of the stage. He has some impressive jumps, alone or together with his bassist, Cory McCormick, and also rolling around on stage with his guitar and doing a Jimi Hendrix special, playing the guitar with his teeth. Promise of the Real is a tight band with in addition to McCormick, Anthony LoGerfo on drums, Jessie Siebenberg on steel and electric guitar, plus Tato Melgar on percussion.
After the last song, Lukas did something I have always liked about his father’s concerts, and which Lukas has adopted – he shook hands with the fans in the front row, talking to them and signing a drum stick and a poster. I have been in Austin for five nights when I write this, seeing 2-4 excellent bands each night, but Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real is by far the best concert I have seen so far this year.
All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.