Photo by Emanuel Wallace
Beyoncé and Jay-Z when they were last in Cleveland.
It took me a while to realize that three shows I couldn’t wait to attend this summer were all the same night.
Yes, the hardworking but clearly heartless, Cleveland venue bookers scheduled Beyoncé and Jay-Z at FirstEnergy Stadium, Foo Fighters at Blossom and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica all for Wednesday, July 25. After a futile internet search for reasonably-priced time machines, it became clear I could only choose one show.
For any of you still in the same boat, here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of each concert and its venue. Don’t worry, the only wrong choice here would be to stay home entirely.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z
FirstEnergy Stadium, 7:30 p.m., $49.50 and up
No doubt, this is one of the biggest, if not the biggest show to hit Cleveland this year. That the Carters are returning (they were last seen here together stumping for Hillary Clinton in 2016) feels like a blessing from on high. These two understand how to make a show so seamless and entertaining, the feast for the eyes never ceases — Bey’s glorious hair action can hold minutes of your attention all by itself. Their recent tour pulls from the married couple’s catalogues of chart-topping singles and deeper classic album cuts. But it’s mostly about the spectacle here, showing that they’re still crazy in love, and, of course, for everyone in the Beyhive, Lemonade
-ing so hard.
This concert is going down in the same place the Browns couldn’t manage to win one game last year. It’s big, loud and impersonal. You’ll have to deal with rowdy teens/young adults, potentially crying along to every word and absolutely never putting their phones down to live in the moment and enjoy the show. Another issue could be weather, as it’s summer in Ohio, and there’s no roof. As with all artists, new material isn’t exactly what we all came to see. Depending on how much they Carters delve into their new joint record, Everything is Love
, the show could devolve quickly. We want to hear “Apeshit,” then move on. Plus, because this is a double bill, one other concern is there might not be enough Beyonce on stage. Sorry, Jay.
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit
Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, 8 p.m., $29.50-$58
Much like Bey and Jay, Jason Isbell and his wife/fiddle player/amazing-solo-artist-in-her-own-right Amanda Shires share a chemistry on stage that’s undeniable. But the reason you go to see Isbell is for his songs. While there are other alt-country acts right now in possession of better vocals and guitar-playing chops, Isbell’s songwriting wins and wins. His lyrics offer layers uncovered by repeat listeners, and hearing them live will only deepen your bond with them. He and the 400 Unit’s recent record, The Nashville Sound
, was one of the best of last year, and you’ll want to hear the whole thing. This show, unlike the others, which are more about getting loud and celebrating summer, will make you feel things deeply and hard, perhaps too much so. Here you don’t have to worry about songs getting cut off or remix versions to keep the crowd entertained. Of all the shows Wednesday, this is the cheapest ticket and is happening in a covered venue.
This whole show is a bit more of a grown-up, subdued affair. If you’re looking for a concert to stand the whole time and jump and dance, this isn’t it. Compared to the other two monster acts playing this night, Isbell and his 400 Unit are the least known, which could mean people won’t be as interested in your evening’s photos when they emerge on social media. Of course, that could be a pro all on its own.
Foo Fighters/The Struts
Blossom Music Center, 7 p.m., $69 and up
Dave Grohl may not have the moves like Beyonce, but he's goddamn rock royalty. Show some respect. His ability to write a song and play the guitar or drums or whatever the hell he feels like is an inspiration to arena rock. And with Foo Fighters more than 20 years in, Grohl just continues to grind out heartfelt rock songs you actually want to listen to, as heard on the act’s ninth album, Concrete and Gold,
that came out last year. Now on tour promoting that record, the Foo Fighters prove that no matter what the Top 50 singles on Billboard charts may show, rock 'n' roll is very much alive. Plus, when the new stuff and some of the well-known singles are out of the way at this concert, you’ll no doubt get to experience “Everlong,” while (hopefully) holding the person most dear to you. It’ll be like high school or college all over again, or whenever you heard the song first. You’ll remember when things were more simple … and you had less money.
Blossom as a venue is always a fickle prospect. When a show nears capacity here, that means getting out of the parking lot in a timely manner is impossible (unless you leave early, which you clearly don’t want to do). Weather could also be an issue, with lawn seats completely uncovered. Plus, depending on where your seats are, the sound may not be as clear. This show is first and foremost a rock show. It’s not for the faint of heart or sensitive of ear. But neither is so much of life these days.