Tag Archives: The Last Waltz

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Lukas Nelson Goes Real and Raw at Music Hall of Williamsburg

November 21st, 2017

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 20, 2017

Lukas Nelson, yep, Willie’s son, mmm hmm, sounds remarkably similar in voice, yada yada yada. We get that out of the way because it’s a little cliché by now, although Nelson certainly had to know what he was signing up for in the wake of his dad’s more-than-60 year career as a legend of country and popular music—and sounding a little, or a lot, like dear old dad ain’t exactly something to sweat. But the even better news is that Lukas is doing a damn fine job carving his own path while staying true to his pedigree: His music goes deep, sounds great loud or soft, tugs at downright Willie-like strands of universal truth and heartache, and is a rollicking good time, through and through.

Nelson and his stalwart band, Promise of the Real, closed a slam-bang tour last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg, showing he and they have learned a lot from two musical fathers, Willie, of course, and also Neil Young, whose been backed by Promise of the Real off and on for the last two years. But the takeaway is that Lukas isn’t the second coming of either Willie or Young so much as the first coming of Lukas Nelson. His was a gutsy, emotional, genre-hopping set, heavy with material from Promise of the Real’s outstanding eponymous 2017 album, and full feeling at just over an hour and a half. Behind the throttle of a six-piece band that incorporated soulful keys as often as it did gnarly pedal steel, it was possible to call this good-time rock and roll without further pinning it down, although the show had everything from country and soul to ragged blues and bar-band boogie.

“Set Me Down on a Cloud” soared like a gospel tune, while “Four Letter Word” and “Die Alone” were roughed-up rock, sometimes in an early ’70s Stones vein. “Fool Me Once” was a Lukas tune that seemed to straddle honky-tonk and R&B, shot through with gorgeous organ. “Just Outside of Austin” sounded like Willie, but perhaps even more like Glen Campbell, unpretentious and introspective. Throughout, Nelson and team showed a knack for set-list composition, including a mid-show acoustic set and also throwing in some Tom Petty (an acoustic, slow-swinging “Breakdown” with superb crowd accompaniment and a thrilling “American Girl”), and, in perhaps an early Thanksgiving nod to The Last Waltz, the Band’s “Up On Cripple Creek” and Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” with opener Nikki Lane and members of her band. If there was a standout, it might have been the stand-back-or-get-bowled-over “Forget About Georgia,” which sounded like what old Willie might if he were in a howling mood and fronting Crazy Horse. It began as a bleary-eyed honky-tonk croon and, over 10-plus minutes, mutated into a wailing guitar squall. It was raw and real, no promises needed. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson

Photos courtesy of Marc Millman Photography | www.marcmillmanphotos.com/music

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Old Crow Medicine Show Finds a Home in Central Park

August 7th, 2012

Old Crow Medicine Show – SummerStage – August 6, 2012


In case you somehow forgot where Old Crow Medicine Show was in the midst of playing a marathon set of old school bluegrass last night, frontman Ketch Secor constantly reminded everyone that it was in Central Park in New York City. In what became a running thread, Secor would mention this every chance he got, expanding with a litany of facts and numbers and then name-dropping boroughs, neighborhoods and most of the outlying suburbs. It became clear that it was partly tongue-in-cheek. Only partly, though, because it was also clear as the band churned through material from most of its albums of the last decade, that location is very important to Old Crow. The group mentioned a couple dozen Southern states and backwoods towns, both real and imagined, throughout the night: from the Virginia of the opening “Carry Me Back to Virginia” to the Alabama in “Alabama High Test” to the “Mountain City” of “Bootlegger’s Boy.” For these guys, where you are is as important as where you’re from and where you’re going.

The show began beneath a beautiful orange-and-blue sunset as Old Crow rotated easily among banjos, fiddles, harmonicas and guitars. The show was sold out, quite amazingly to a mostly younger crowd that didn’t quite have the look of folk who’d spent any time at a bluegrass festival. It took a while for the audience to settle in, but once the sun set, the chitchat died away and everyone focused on the music. Things turned more interesting right around the same time with a string of songs that started with “Methamphetamine” and “James River Blues.” With plenty of fiddle breakdowns and multipart harmonies, the crowd started to really move. This reached a head with “Wagon Wheel,” which drew the biggest reaction of the night, with everyone singing along. It may have been Central Park, but it suddenly felt like the band’s home.

The set was a strong 80-plus minutes of music, but the encore deserves its own paragraph. After a nice version of “Hard to Love,” Old Crow Medicine Show brought out the first openers, the Milk Carton Kids, for “I Hear Them All” with an appropriate “This Land Is Your Land” squeezed in the middle. Then they brought out the second openers, the Lumineers, for an awesome everyone-onstage take on “Sweet Virginia,” which seemed appropriate considering the opening number. Again it was location, location, location as the whole ensemble rocked an appropriately big version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” At this point there were more than twelve musicians onstage comprising just about every string instrument you could imagine. The laws of live music (The Last Waltz Act of 1976) state that when that many people assemble for an encore, they must finish with an everyone-gets-some take on “I Shall Be Released,” and so that’s how they ended a wonderful night in Central Park in New York City. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com