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Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real at Amoeba on Thursday, April 28th, 2011

What do you do when your father is a country legend and you want to play music like him? Lukas Nelson, Willie’s son, is playing the blues, a muscular kind of blues, with long jams and many guitar impressive effects, as if he wanted to be a guitar hero like his too famous father.

Lukas and the Promise of the Real was playing at Amoeba on Thursday night, and I guess he is not as famous as his father yet, since I could find a spot in the front when arriving only half and hour before they started. However the crowd grew rapidly as the music the four of them played was cut for stadium arenas.

Wearing a pale straw hat, a leather jacket and glasses, he came on stage looking a little bit like a long haired Ethan Hawke, and started alone with a very quiet country ballad, talking about honoring his father and mother, that could have precisely been written by his father, and with a nasal voice that was way too close to the original, but I don’t think for a minute he was forcing the resemblance.

He seemed at ease on stage, making right away the place his, with a charismatic presence and a quiet confidence that he was about to show much more of when he played the following songs with his full band.

The raw energy of the set was quite spectacular at times, as he was jumping, shredding his guitar suddenly upside down, making it cry with his teeth, and overall playing a music which was most of the time a classic blues rock, just exoticized by the addition of bongos at the top of the drums. Neil Young? Santana? Jimmi Hendrix? Stevie Ray Vaughan? A little bit of all these, and he actually covered Neil Young’s ‘LA’.

Lukas was moving furiously his blonde hair when he was dueling with Corey McCormick on bass, back against back, during these long bluesy jams that were turning in quite a workout. Their last song in particular (‘2012 The Happy Ending’) was a never ending drum-bongo solo, just interrupted by more guitar solos, accelerating like an old classic blues, ending with fireworks and a succession of at least 20 jumps while still playing.

Lukas, who is only 22, says he grew up on his dad’s ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ tour bus which was renamed The Real Mobile after Lukas’ band. He learned guitar at 12, but he had already written a song at 11, so there is no surprise there.
He presented his artist brother Micah, the 7th child of Willie (Lukas is the 6th) who was in the crowd, and who also did the CD artwork. Everything seems to run in the family.

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