ACL Review: Lukas Nelson

Willie’s kid proves his own Americana rockist

Friday’s afternoon crowd on the ACL Fest Miller Lite stage: one T-shirt commemorated Van Halen’s 2007 tour. Another, the late Jerry Garcia. One cheeky punter sashayed forward in familiar red, braided pigtails, facial scruff, and a bandana knotted around his head. The parody of his old man now seems quaint and out of place. Lukas Nelson is firmly his own man.

Photo by Gary Miller

Two years ago, the singer couldn’t shake his undeniable vocal resemblance to his outlaw father, Willie Nelson, despite aspiring to a Stevie Ray-style Strat strangler as a guitarist. Similarly, the music he made with crackerjack unit Promise of the Real proved sturdy and workmanlike, but ultimately undistinguished jam band fare. They were tight, but still felt like a work in progress.

With their eponymous fourth LP, Nelson and band arrive as Americana überartists with a decidedly rockist flair. Clearly, two years’ touring with Neil Young as Crazy Horse stand-ins seasoned these guys. Cosmic cowboys for the 21st century, anyone?

Nelson still shows off prodigious guitar chops, but now he’d rather wring every bit of emotion out of a one-note lead than showboat all over the joint. Not that he could resist playing a solo with his teeth at one point. The late-afternoon Friday set leaned heavily on new material, but despite the cry of a steel guitar throughout, more overdrive and less twang defined these renditions.

The real tell?

“We’d like to do something now from someone who taught me the love of music,” Nelson declared before kicking into a faithful rendition of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Lukas Nelson
Playback – Lukas Nelson: Real as Promised
Playback – Lukas Nelson: Real as Promised
Lukas Nelson is a chip off the ol' Willie

Kevin Curtin, Aug. 25, 2017

Willie's Reserve
Willie's Reserve
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real pull from the family joint

Tim Stegall, June 26, 2015

More by Tim Stegall
SXSW Music Review: Bush Tetras
SXSW Music Review: Bush Tetras
Dance music only the Lower East Side in 1979 could’ve produced

March 16, 2019

SXSW Music Review: Amyl & the Sniffers
SXSW Music Review: Amyl & the Sniffers
Aussie punks froth equal parts AC/DC and Ramones

March 15, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Lukas Nelson, ACL Fest 2017, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Crazy Horse, Tom Petty, Stevie Ray Vaughan

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle