Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real + William Crighton
Factory Theatre, Marrickville NSW
April 18th, 2019
Bluesfest is nearly upon us for another year and so are the associated sideshows that roll through Sydney. If you’re a fan of Americana and country rock then Lukas Nelson and band Promise Of The Real should have been high on your list of must-sees, given that he’s Willie’s son, they’re Neil Young’s current backing band (alongside the resurrected Crazy Horse) and most importantly they without doubt hold their own as a band showcasing Nelson’s songs, voice and musicianship.
William Crighton had his full band with him to open the evening. It was a short set, 30 minutes long, that satiated established fans and undoubtedly pulled in some new ones with a mix of older tracks (Jesus Blues, 2000 Clicks) and more recent songs (Fire In The Empire, Devil’s Tongue) – the latter featuring an early appearance from headliner Nelson on lead guitar. Such is Crighton’s commanding presence, his set felt different to the usual ‘warming up the stage’ role of the support act, more of a co-headliner, an Australian/American musical conference.
With his self-described Tom Petty hat rising towards the theatre lights, Lukas Nelson and band ambled on stage to a low-key but warm welcome. Given it was the eve of a public holiday there was a convivial and relaxed atmosphere in the Factory, which can often struggle on that front. A quick chat with the audience, of which there would be little more over the next two hours, and the band were away, letting the music do the talking. And what conversationalists they were. Incredibly accomplished players all of them. From Corey McCormick, one of the finest and most versatile bass players I’ve seen in a long time through drummer Anthony LoGerfo, percussionist Tato Melgar and Logan Metz, multi-tasking on pedal-steel, keyboard and guitar.
Promise Of The Real might get pegged as country rock or Americana but they cast their net much wider than that. There were covers of Bob Wills honky tonk, the African funk of Paul Simon’s Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, hard slabs of blues rock akin to Wishbone Ash and ZZ Top as well as a strong streak of soul music. At times that diversity worked against them through the set as the gear shifts felt like a showcase of styles rather than a focus on the strength of songs. That showmanship ended up in a mid-set round of solos from each member of the band. Yes their playing was impressive but that kind of spotlight soloing never adds to a show.
Of Nelson’s songs, Forget About Georgia, Just Outside Of Austin and the fun strut of Fool Me Once impressed the most. Of course being Neil Young’s sidekicks they generously gave us superb performances of four of his songs. The wistful Long May You Run, Buffalo Springfield’s I Am A Child and to round out the set William Crighton returned for a barnstorming run through Powderfinger and Rockin’ In The Free World.
Between songs Nelson sometimes appeared a little flat and low on energy but every time a new song began he locked in and was the consummate professional, playing with passion and flair, losing himself in the music and physically surrendering to its vibrations. An abundance of talent and great taste in covers and original material made for an entertaining night of American music.