Lukas Nelson & POTR | The Fillmore | 2/29/2024

Article Contributed by Gabriel David Barkin | Published on Sunday, March 3, 2024

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real (POTR) commanded the stage on Thursday, February 29, the second of two jam- and fan-packed nights at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium.

For over two hours, Nelson and Co. delivered a ton of butt-kicking rock and roll, oodles of Texas stomp and swagger, and a healthy dose of mellow sweetness to round out the flavor. A surprise appearance by Bob Weir was icing on the cake.

Lukas and Lily Meola | San Francisco, CA

Lily Meola | The Fillmore

Nelson kicked off the evening by introducing his longtime friend Lily Meola for her opening set. Meola, a 2022 “America’s Got Talent” finalist, sang a suite of heartfelt originals, accompanied by Bre Kennedy and Melissa Fuller on guitars and picture-perfect harmonies. Nelson joined her to sing “Daydream,” the song that earned Meola a “golden buzzer” from AGT’s Heidi Klum.

Lukas sitting in with Lily Meola | San Francisco, CA

Meola also sang some new songs, including one for her mother that brought tears to her own eyes as she crooned, “I’ll keep on sending these postcards to heaven.” She also played a short version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” which Meola said was the winner of a poll on her Instagram page. “We don’t really know it, but we learned the first verse for you.”

Lukas Nelson | San Fancisco, CA

Anthony LoGerfo | Promise of the Real

Corey McCormick | Promise of the Real

Nelson and POTR kicked off their headlining set with “Entirely Different Stars.” POTR (Tato Melgar, percussion; Anthony LoGerfo, drums; Corey McCormick, bass and vocals; and Logan Metz, keyboards, lap steel, harmonica, and vocals) hit the ground running, keeping pace with Nelson as he whipped through the first of many notable guitar solos. In his wide-brimmed cowboy hat, wire-rimmed glasses, and a sleek, black western button-down shirt, Lukas looked every part the modern country-rock star.

Lukas Nelson | San Francisco, CA

Switching between a Fender Strat and a Gibson Les Paul as the night progressed, Nelson’s blues-based guitar riffs marry the tone of Neil Young’s electric sound with the melodic scales and melodies of George Harrison and Nelson’s father, Willie. He's no slouch; some people might even call him a Rock God. (To be fair, some of those people might be as enamored by his movie star looks every bit as much as his virtuoso playing.)

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real | The Fillmore

Later in the set, Nelson got an extra cheer during “(Forget About) Georgia” when he sang the line, “We made love for the first time in a hotel in San Franciso.” (Side note: The last time Nelson was on stage at the Fillmore was a two-night stand with his father Willie’s band in January 2020, just before the Covid outbreak – and yes, during that run they played Ray Charles “Georgia on My Mind,” an inspiration for Lukas’s tune.)

After thirty minutes of POTR jams, Nelson gave POTR a break and played a few songs by himself, first on acoustic guitar and then on piano. The first of these was “All the Pretty Horses,” which provides ample proof that the apple didn’t fall too far from the gifted songwriting tree. When Lukas sings that he’s “riding on a trail that my father left me,” the genetic hand-me-downs from Willie are palpable. And truly, the son sounds most like his father when he sings the mellow shit.

Lukas Nelson & Lily Meola

Shortly after “Horses,” Lily Meola joined Nelson for a harmonious cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound.” This was followed by Nelson, alone on stage again, singing his exquisite love song, “Just Outside of Austin” (which he’d played with the full band the night before). Before bringing the band back, he stayed at the piano for a rendition of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” which showcased his nearly flawless falsetto on the Thin White Duke’s FM radio classic.

Lukas’s brother Micah, who performs as Particle Kid (and accompanies POTR when the band goes on tour to back Neil Young), made an appearance next to take the lead on his own anthemic singalong “Everything is Bullshit.” He returned for the encore later too.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

After a trio of Nelson’s Texas cowpunk rockers (“Every Time I Drink,” “Wrong House,” and “Ladder of Love”), POTR ripped through Willie’s “Bloody Mary Morning.” This was followed by Nelson’s own “Find Yourself,” which currently occupies the top spot on POTR’s Spotify page. Lukas has indeed carved out his own songwriting and performance path, and “Find Yourself” is among the best examples of his gifted craftwork. On this soulful rocker, Nelson turns into a preacher – and the audience rapturously sings along when he calls on the congregation to join in:

I hope you find yourself
Before I find somebody else to be my love

The 75-minute main set ended with “Set Me Down on a Cloud.” But POTR was just getting started.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real | The Fillmore

A 40-minute (!) encore began with the entirety of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes.” Nelson’s brother Particle Kid joined POTR on lap steel on the timeless album track from 1971’s Meddle. POTR was watertight as they waded through the slow build and rose to a crescendo of power chords. The Nelson brothers could make serious money touring as a Pink Floyd cover band, no doubt!

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real | The Fillmore

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Weir’s unexpected walk-on gave the crowd a reason to lift their cell phones to capture the moment on video. With Weir and Nelson trading solos, they covered the Hunter-Garcia original “West L.A. Fadeaway” and Buddy Holly’s classic (and oft-played Dead encore) “Not Fade Away.”

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real | San Francisco, CA

Lukas Nelson | San Francisco, CA

As if it was all over, POTR and Weir took a bow – but even then, Nelson wasn’t quite done. After Weir walked offstage, Nelson looked at his fellow bandmates and said, “Okay, what the hell, let’s play another one!” They closed the show with Nelson’s “Something Real”:

I'm begging you to give me something real, babe!

photos by Gabriel David Barkin

Lukas Nelson and POTR are not a bag of empty promises. They’re the real deal, and the fans got what they came for. A Rock God indeed!

Entirely Different Stars
Sticks and Stones
Fool Me Once
Piano Explosion of Goodness
(Forget About) Georgia
Die Alone
All the Pretty Horses
Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel cover, with Lily Meola)
Just Outside of Austin
Life on Mars (David Bowie cover)
A Few Stars Apart
Everything Is Bullshit (with Particle Kid)
Every Time I Drink
Wrong House
Ladder of Love
Bloody Mary Morning (Willie Nelson cover)
Find Yourself
Set Me Down on a Cloud

Echoes (Pink Floyd cover)
West L.A. Fadeaway (Grateful Dead cover, with Bob Weir)
Not Fade Away (The Crickets cover, with Bob Weir)
Something Real