The beauty of live music is the simple fact that no live show is exactly the same. And Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real was a testament to that! Never has the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater felt more outdoors than it did on the night of August 8, 2019. Not only were we treated to one of the best shows so far in the Deer Valley Concert Series, but on this night, ‘Ol Mother Nature didn’t want to be left out of the action.
The evening began as any other might at a Deer Valley concert. Many fans showed up early, lawn chairs in one hand, picnic baskets in the other ready to wine and dine with their friends on the hill before an incredible night of music. This is one of my favorite aspects of the Deer Valley Concert series. We get to escape the warmer temperatures of the Salt Lake Valley and enjoy a cool pleasant evening with the food, drinks, and pleasant company. The atmosphere is casual in nature and the 360° views are incredible.
War and Treaty took the stage and totally blew me away! I was unfamiliar with the married soul duo but I won’t be forgetting them anytime soon. Their sound seems to be rooted in Soul, but I could sense aspects of classic country music and the stylings of old spirituals. I couldn’t decide who I was more impressed with vocally. One Moment Tanya Blount would sing and completely captivate the audience then Michael Trotter Jr would show off his range and drop every jaw on the hill! What a perfect group to set the tone for an amazing evening! I would love to see them come through Utah sometime on their own tour. I think it would be so fun to hear a full set from them.
What once was a sky with only a few clouds was now blanketed dark stormy clouds shouting with thunder and spitting lightning throughout the area. Deer Valley was forced to delay the show with the hopes that these clouds would be on their way. The audience found shelter in the lodge or back in their cars waiting to hear if it would be possible for this concert to even continue. Now when your outdoor concert ticket says “Rain or Shine”, they mean it. So once the threat of lightning was gone, a little rain wasn’t going to stop this concert from continuing.
With the half-hour delay, we were at risk of getting a very condensed set from Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. Park City, like most cities, has a strict 10 o’clock noise curfew. I think we were all hoping that anything would be better than a show cancelation. Lukas Nelson and POTR took the stage to some soaked but stoked fans. Sure, some people left. But honestly not too many. Pretty much only the wimps left. And as much as I hate to say it, they missed out on quite a show. One that only happens every so often. I mean, how many chances will you get to dance and sing in the rain while listening to some of the best musicians in the world.
Many people know Promise of the Real as Neil Young’s backing band since 2015. And many people primarily know Lukas Nelson as Willie Nelson’s son, or as one of the musical co-producers on the Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper movie “A Star is Born”. But it seemed that those at this concert really knew these guys. They came to the show and stayed for the show because they are absolutely devoted to this incredible band.
I want to write about every song I heard because each had its own story and message. But this review would be four thousand words long and as much as we love Lukas Nelson and POTR, no one wants that. So here are some of my highlights. Right towards the beginning was the song “Die Alone”. Its driving beat and delicious guitar licks really got the crowd going. If people were cold from the rain, this song was going to warm them up. “Fool Me Once” was another song I really like that got people moving and shaking.
The two songs that stood out and resonated with me the most were “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden) and “Where Does Love Go”. The first was a song that I have really enjoyed since hearing it on the album of the same name. It’s so appropriate for these tumultuous times. Lukas Nelson and POTR did a slowed down acoustic version of this song for us. The meaning of this song was intensified and the particular stylings we were privileged to hear gave it that much more purpose. I hope there is a recorded version of this song somewhere because I absolutely loved it! And “Where Does Love Go” is such a beautifully constructed song. Take Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and mix Lukas’ vocals into a musical Cuisinart and you’ll have this song. I wish I could have heard Roy sing this song. It was awesome enough hearing Lukas Nelson sing it. It’s a perfect song for his vocal range. And does he have range!
Let’s chat a moment about Lukas Nelson’s pipes. So, it’s almost unavoidable to make some comparisons to his father Willie. There is a similar timber in their voices that would seem to be genetic. And of course when Lukas sings a song in the country style of his father you can hear the similarities. But Lukas has a sound and voice all his own. He totally croons in “Where Does Love Go” but then he gets real gritty in “Find Yourself”. I don’t think I was ready for how good his voice was going to sound live. It moved me. At times I would stop singing along so I could just listen to him. He would hit these crazy falsetto notes and I would just stand there rainsoaked in complete awe. He has that Al Green type of falsetto. The kind where you don’t know where he’s pulling it from, but when he’s hitting it you’re not surprised. He’s a gifted vocalist.
He had the audacity of making us sing the chorus to “Find Yourself” after he just killed it vocally for five minutes. He had the women sing alone and then the men. It was fun to give it a shot. After hearing him sing I wanted to give it a shot. But as much I enjoyed the sing along, and I loved it, I really loved it when he came back and sang again.
It rained off and on throughout the concert and no one seemed to mind. The music was just too good to be concerned about the weather. In fact, the rain sometimes added to the show. The show ended at about 10:30. I found out later that Park City gave Deer Valley permission to perform a little longer due to the lightning delay. I thought that was so cool of the city to do that.
I love coming to the Deer Valley Concert Series. It’s a highlight of my summer. And just when you think you know what to expect up on that hill, a night like August 8th with Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real happens and you realize, when it comes to the live music experience there is no predicting what can happen.