Review: Lucero Presides Over Drunken Singalongs at Grog Shop Show

The country-punk band delivered a fun career-spanning set

click to enlarge Review: Lucero Presides Over Drunken Singalongs at Grog Shop Show
Photo by Eric Heisig

As Saturday night’s Lucero show at the Grog Shop wore on, members of the audience handed more and more shots to lead singer and guitarist Ben Nichols.

He received about a half-dozen in the span of an hour. And despite some mild protesting, he downed all of them.

“My wife is going to hate you,” he jokingly told one of the shot-gifters.

Still, as expected for a band that has built its reputation on country-inflected drunken singalongs, Nichols handled his liquor well. Yes, he got a little sloppy, but it wasn’t a distraction. Instead, it added to the charm of the nearly two-hour concert that was heavy on crowd favorites.

Formed in Memphis in the late 1990s, the country-punk quintet has amassed a devoted fan base with a steady output and near-constant touring schedule. Led by Nichols, who also owns a home in Wadsworth, the band last made an appearance in the area in October 2022 at the Beachland Ballroom. (though Barry co-headlined a show at the Grog Shop in August).

The band is touring with Jason Boland and The Stragglers — who didn’t make Saturday’s show because its van broke down. Local musician Doug McKean filled in —  at the same time of a 20th anniversary re-release of its album That Much Further West.

Lucero played five tunes from that album on Saturday, but the show was set up more as a solid career overview. Opening with “For the Lonely Ones,” Nichols and his bandmates tore through 24 songs, including “Back in Ohio,” “Nights Like These” and “Sweet Little Thing.”

A quarter century into its career, the music has fallen into a somewhat more relaxed groove that is less reliant on punk rock. The band also makes room for musical accents that only the most seasoned players would know to add.

None of this was lost on the rabid crowd that squeezed into the Grog Shop to hear Nichols “severely depressing” songs (“It’s what we do best,” he joked). Audience members sang along to many, even when Nichols was unsure of the words, like on request “Smoke.”

Following a massive singalong for “Tears Don’t Matter Much,” Nichols and keyboardist Rick Steff re-emerged for a duet on “The War,” a song about Nichols’ grandfather’s service in World War II. It was a sloppy but heartfelt tribute as Veterans Day drew to a close.

The full band emerged again for closer “It Gets the Worst at Night.” By that point in the show, the shots Nichols ingested had clearly kicked in, though he kept his composure enough to drive the song home, say goodbye and prepare himself to do it all again on Sunday night.

Setlist (courtesy of and my own recollection)
1. For the Lonely Ones
2. That Much Further West
3. Back in Ohio
4. And We Fell
5. I’ll Just Fall
6. Downtown (Intro)
7. On My Way Downtown
8. Coming Home
9. Texas & Tennessee
10. When You Decided to Leave
11. Macon If We Make It
12. Coffin Nails
13. Hate and Jealousy
14. Buy a Little Time
15. Among the Ghosts
16. A Dangerous Thing
17. Chain Link Fence
18. Sweet Little Thing
19. Smoke
20. Nights Like These
21. Nothing’s Alright
22. Tears Don't Matter Much
23. The War
24. It Gets the Worst at Night

Eric Heisig is a freelance writer in Cleveland. He can be reached at [email protected].

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