It All Gets Real For Lukas Nelson January 3, 2017 10:20
Photos by Jim Eckenrode
Story by Clark Forster: Live & Listen
Lukas Nelson reflects on his group’s time as Neil Young’s band and how father Willie and the Canadian rocker helped Promise of the Real burst into the spotlight.
Seven years after guitarist Lukas Nelson met bandmate and drummer Anthony LoGerfo at a Neil Young concert, the two California musicians found themselves touring the world with their rock hero.
Nelson, the 28-year-old son of Willie Nelson, and LoGerfo formed their band Promise of the Real in the months following their early 2008 concert introduction. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real have since produced two albums as Young’s band while touring with the folk rocker throughout 2015 and 2016. The group’s time with Young culminated this October when Neil Young and Promise of the Real played back-to-back weekends at Desert Trip in Indio, California. Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Young, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters and The Who made up the all-legend classic rock lineup. And Nelson and Promise of the Real were introduced to 150,000 new fans.
“It was indescribable being up there,” Nelson said of the two shows with Young in Indio. “When we were doing our warm-ups Paul [McCartney] came up to the band and told us what a great band he thought we were. He was talking to Neil about how they were going to do their thing together, then we all went and partied together after the show. It was just magic.”
That’s what life has been like for Nelson the past two years. And now Promise of the Real is taking advantage of its newfound fame.
“Every show that Promise of the Real has played on our own since being out with Neil, there’s just been more and more fans and more people coming,” Nelson said. “It’s just a growing thing. I feel like it’s growing organically and it’s a strong foundation of fans who just won’t ever leave.”
The cowboy-hippie-surf-rock band is made up of Nelson, LoGerfo, bass player Corey McCormick and percussionist Tato Melgar. The lineup was supplemented to include Nelson’s brother, Micah Nelson, when the band began working with Young. The description has hung around through the years, but Nelson said the band has a deeper sound than its label.
“That was just a funny little joke that kinda stuck, the cowboy-hippie-surf-rock,” Nelson said. “I think we’re more like country soul or somethin’. We’ve got this southern thing going but we try and get the soulfulness of those old 60’s and 70’s rockers. We all surf. It just all came together in that phrase.”
Watch Neil Young perform "Keep On Rockin' In The Free World with Lukas Nelson + Promise of the Real at FarmAid 2016 here:
Following the release of Young and Promise of the Real’s “The Monsanto Years” in 2015, the two artists released the live album “Earth” in 2016. The album featured recordings from their 2015 “Rebel Content Tour.” Promise of the Real released its own album “Something Real” in March as the band’s third LP. The nine-track album features seven original songs and two covers. The band put its own spin on J.J. Cale’s “I’ll Make Love To You Anytime” and Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco.”
“I love J.J. Cale,” Nelson said. “I’ve been a huge fan of his for a really long time now. I just think he’s the most underrated performer, writer and guitar player out there. It’s just really nice to be able to give him tribute in that way.
“‘San Francisco’, we did that record in San Francisco,” he added. “The whole time we were doing this record, I had that song stuck in my head and I thought ‘I want to do a recording of that but I want to do it differently.’ We got in there and we had a 150-year-old pump organ we played on it, and we really worked hard. I think we got a good cover.”
Promise of the Real has earned its keep in the rock world through that hard work while logging heavy miles on the road. Nelson estimated that his band has played over 200 shows a year since its formation in 2008. However, he doesn’t hesitate to credit his famous father and iconic bandmate with helping him and Promise of the Real reach dreamlike heights. Nelson was at the music festival Farm Aid in 2010 performing with his father and Promise of the Real when Willie’s friend Young approached the band.
“I never talked to him or knew him much. I just loved his music.” Nelson said of Young. “Then one time he came up to us and said ‘Hey that’s great.’ We stayed in touch over the next three or four years and then finally he said ‘I want you to come in and do a record with us, what do you say?’
“Without dad, without Farm Aid, Neil would never have heard us and said ‘I like that’ and we wouldn’t be with him,” Nelson said. “I’m definitely not one not to acknowledge the reasons that I’m here, other than my own hard work, and that’s Neil and dad and my mom and everybody else that supports me.”
Nelson said one of the highlights during his time with Young came while the group toured Europe over the summer. Willie attended three of the concerts while the band was in Italy. He’d sit and take in the show before hopping on stage to sing with his two sons and Young on songs such as “On the Road Again” and “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?.” It was a family affair for the Nelsons and a trip that left Promise of the Real with a treasure trove of memories.
“After we’d play every show in Europe we’d have however long of a drive to our next hotel,” Nelson said. “We’d work on new stuff and just shoot the shit for awhile. I’d show Neil songs I’d written. Micah would show Neil songs he’d written. We’d all sit around on the bus and jam together.
“I remember I launched into ‘The Weight’ with an acoustic guitar and we all just started singing along to that, just like you would around a campfire. Riding down the road in France, or wherever we were, and just having those amazing experiences.”
Watch Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real perform "Something Real" at FarmAid 30 here:
Promise of the Real may be referred to as Neil Young’s band, but the group shares the spotlight with their Canadian counterpart during shows. Young isn’t afraid to highlight each of the young musician’s talents and let their personalities shine through on stage.
“The same way that [Bob] Dylan was with The Band, Neil was with Promise of the Real,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot of mutual respect between us musicians and we just kinda come from the same place musically. We kinda get what he gets when it comes to playing music.”
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real is as well-known as ever after the band’s time touring and recording with Young. The band will conclude its “Something Real Tour” Jan. 13 following the week-long Sandy Beaches Cruise 23 with Delbert McClinton and Friends. Promise of the Real plans to release its fourth studio album in May. It’s a record that has Nelson eager to see what 2017 holds in store for the band.
"I think it’s just going to blow people’s minds,” Nelson said of the upcoming album. “Each one of the songs I think is just, forgive me for saying, but they’re just timeless songs that have come out of this period of creativity, this period of inspiration. I feel like people are going to flip out when it comes out. This will be something for the ages. I’m hoping 2017 reflects what I feel like it’s going to reflect.”
Watch Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real perform "Find Yourself" via Jam In The Van (2014) here:
Watch Widespread Panic & Jerry Joseph Perform "Cortez The Killer" In Full HD September 1, 2016 11:45
Photo by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
Widespread Panic is in the midst of another monster year; one which has certainly seen the band making all kinds of noise. The band's spring tour was packed with many highlights, several of which came during the band's summer tour, which led them to the west coast for visits to many venues that hadn't seen the band in many years. During a multi-night run in Bend, OR, Panic welcomed it's old friend Jerry Joseph to the stage for a rousing cover of Neil Young's "Cortez The Killer." This would serve as the first time Panic had played the Young classic since October 17th, 2009. Fortunately, HD video footage has surfaced, and the video can be watched in full below
Watch Widespread Panic & Jerry Joseph Perform "Cortez the Killer" here:
Throwback: Neil Young Joins Phish For An Acoustic "Harry Hood" (1998) April 28, 2016 16:29
Nearly every year since 1986, Neil Young and his former wife Pegi have called upon their musical friends to perform at an annual benefit concert to raise funds for the Bridge School, an innovative organization educating children with severe speech and physical impairments. The Youngs ask their invited guests to cut the cords and perform on acoustics for the Bridge School Benefit Concerts.
In October of 1998, jam veterans Phish performed two acoustic sets at the 12th annual Bridge School Benefit Concert, which also featured R.E.M., Neil Young, and Barenaked Ladies. One of many highlights from these sets came during "Harry Hood", when Neil Young joined the band just after the 7-minute mark of the song. Young would return to the stage and take lead vocals on his own "Helpless" to close the set.
Setlist and show notes via Phish.net
Setlist: Saturday, October 17th 1998 - Shoreline Amphitheatre
Set 1: Carolina, Sleep, Never, Possum, I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome, Free Bird, Driver, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Harry Hood > Helpless
 Debut; acoustic.
 Acoustic; Mike on banjo, Page on acoustic bass.
 Acoustic; unfinished; Neil Young on guitar.
 Phish debut; acoustic; Neil Young on guitar and vocals.
This single-set performance was part of the 12th annual Bridge School benefit that also included R.E.M., Neil Young, and Barenaked Ladies. This was an acoustic performance, with a unique stage setup that had Fish stage right, with Page on the far left. Carolina was performed with the band facing toward the Bridge School children, who were on a raised platform at the back of the stage. Sleep, Never, and Driver also debuted at this show. I’m Blue I’m Lonesome (first since December 12, 1995, or 195 shows) was performed in the bluegrass setup of 1994, with Mike on banjo and Page on acoustic bass. Free Bird was played for the first time since June 19, 1994 (338 shows). Hood included a tease of Work Song by Page and was unfinished; Neil Young joined in during the Hood jam, and then sang lead on the Phish debut of his own composition, Helpless.
Setlist: Sunday, October 18th 1998 - Shoreline Amphitheatre
Set 1: Hello My Baby, Billy Breathes, Piper, Roggae, Loving Cup, Albuquerque, The Old Home Place, Guyute, Brian and Robert, Sad Lisa, Four Strong Winds, I Shall Be Released
 Acoustic; Mike on banjo, Page on acoustic bass.
 Phish debut; acoustic; Sarah McLachlan on guitar and vocals.
 Phish debut; acoustic; Sarah McLachlan and Neil Young on guitar and vocals and Kevin Hearn on accordion.
Notes: This single-set performance was part of the 12th annual Bridge School benefit that also included R.E.M., Neil Young, and Barenaked Ladies. This was an acoustic performance, with a unique stage setup that had Fish stage right, with Page on the far left. Hello My Baby was performed with the band facing toward the Bridge School children, who were on a raised platform at the back of the stage. The Old Home Place was performed in the bluegrass setup of 1994, with Mike on banjo and Page on acoustic bass. Sad Lisa featured Sarah McLachlan on guitar and vocals, while Four Strong Winds and I Shall Be Released featured McLachlan and Neil Young on guitar and vocals, as well as Barenaked Ladies’ Kevin Hearn on accordion; all three songs were Phish debuts.