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Willie's boy stands tall on his own

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real
Turner Hall
Milwaukee, WI
November 1, 2011
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real

Story and photos by Jennifer Bronenkant

Starting a music career as the child of a famous musician has proved to be a difficult path for some who have fought the constant comparisons to the parent and accusations about coat tail riding while trying to carve out their own niche. Lukas Nelson, son of legend Willie Nelson, must have to deal with these same issues, but is already creating his own music with a natural grace at the young age of 22.

He certainly has everything going for him: talent, good looks with a winning smile, a strong work ethic on top of an amazing pedigree. He grew up traveling the country on his father's tour bus the Honey Suckle Rose while being exposed to legendary musicians giving him the best music education one could hope for.

Nelson's music is soulful rock with influences like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix and certainly from his father and famous friends.

Still working his way up in the business, Nelson and his band Promise of the Real performed before a small audience at Turner Hall on Tuesday night. The show was just $10 and several audience members I met were fans of Willie Nelson, but did not know his son's music.

The audience seemed to be impressed from the start with Nelson's music and incredible guitar playing, but remained politely seated at cafe tables leaving a large dance floor area in front of the stage empty. It was a rather strange scene with this band totally rocking out on stage while facing a huge empty "barrier" between them and the audience.

After the first few songs, it was clear that Nelson was winning them over. Starting out with original music then covering Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, Nelson showed off his guitar prowess in his high energy performance. Not only is he highly skilled on the instrument, he is an incredibly physical and emotional player. He is a true showman.

Then he slowed it down a bit with a three song acoustic set starting with "Wanted To Try" where you could hear the strong family influence in both vocal and guitar style. He followed that with an acoustic version of his biggest song "Four Letter Word" which had fans singing along for the first time of the night, but it was during his emotional rendition of "Fathers and Mothers" it was clear that he had won the audience over completely. For a few particularly touching lines of this song, Nelson slung his guitar behind his back and sang a cappella creating a magic moment that brought the audience to a still silence followed by audible gasps of appreciation.

Back on the electric guitar, he rocked through more original numbers along with the Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters covers. During his song "Toppers," a few fans finally went up and danced in front of the stage which drew a sincere thank you from Nelson.

Instead of the usual routine of the band leaving the stage and returning for an encore, Nelson just invited the audience to get closer and said they would play more music. The audience eagerly accepted the invitation and spent the encore dancing and cheering.

There are certainly advantages to coming from a famous family including exposure to important people, the opportunity to play to large audiences when with his father and even the use of one of the old Honeysuckle Rose custom tour buses, but in the end this kid is making fans based on his own abundance of talent, drive and ability to connect with and engage an audience.

Milwaukee Set List:
1. Wasted
2. Golden Rule
3. The Awakening
4. Don't Lose Your Mind
5. Sound Of Your Memory
6. Mystery (Pearl Jam)
7. Pali Gap/Hey Babe (Jimi Hendrix)
8. Meet Me In The Morning (Bob Dylan)
9. Wanted To Try
10. Four Letter Word (acoustic)
11. Fathers And Mothers
12. Sympathy For The Devil (Rolling Stones)
13. The Joint
14. Don't Take Me Back
15. Toppers
16. Hoochie Coochie Man (Muddy Waters)

Frame Of Mind
Four Letter Word
Start To Go
2012 The Happy Ending

Related articles:

Lukas Nelson (Farm Aid 2011 ) - Concert review - Kansas City, KS - August 2011

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real

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