ZZ Top and Cheap Trick Bring Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica’s Season to a Close with a Bang

Much like heavy metal icons AC/DC, Texas-based bluesmen ZZ Top happened upon a musical formula and proceeded to stick with it all the way to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Last night, ZZ Top, affectionately known as “that little ole band from Texas,” brought its 50th anniversary tour to town, closing out Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica’s season in the process.

Though the band’s 90-minute set suffered from a sound mix that often buried the vocals, the group still seemed to revel in delivering an overview of its career that came complete with a few choice covers and some snippets from the music videos that helped propel into the mainstream in the 1980s.

You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here.

Decked out in matching black jackets, sunglasses and tight-fitting jeans, singer-bassist Dusty Hill and singer-guitarist Billy Gibbons, their signature beards now peppered with gray, both played guitars splattered with Day-Glo red and green paint that made the instruments glow in the dark. With little fanfare, they launched into “Got Me Under Pressure,” swaying in unison to the song’s bluesy groove. They then played Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You” with just as much attitude and let hard-hitting drummer Frank Beard kick off “Gimme All Your Lovin,’” a tune that found Gibbons effortlessly soloing. A video of a souped-up car speeding through the desert played on the monitor as the group kicked out the jams.

“Are you having a good time now?” Gibbons asked the near-capacity crowd that answered in the affirmative. Gibbons was in fine form on “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” sneering the line “I’m bad” before pausing dramatically to menacingly mutter “nationwide.” The group turned the Merle Travis country tune “Sixteen Tons” into a ZZ Top song by adding its signature blues guitar riffs and gruff vocals. They closed the set with two of their biggest hits, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs,” both of which were delivered with plenty of gusto. Each tune featured snippets from the old music videos too.

The three-song encore included a terrific rendition of “La Grange.” It didn’t matter that the vocals got buried in the mix on this tune because they’re deep in the mix on the studio version and almost sound more like well-timed grunts than actual words. The trio would bring the show to a close with “Tush” and a rendition of the Elvis Presley tune “Jailhouse Rock.” ZZ Top might be half a century old, but the band showed no intention of going quietly into the night. The guys kept their amps cranked for the set's duration, and appropriately enough, the concert came to a conclusion at about the same time that fireworks erupted from Progressive Field.

Fellow Rock Hall Inductees Cheap Trick opened the show with an hour-long set that also suffered from a poor sound mix. And yet, the veteran power-pop band sounded ornerier than ever, something that came across well as it delivered a noisy rendition of the Velvet Underground tune “I’m Waiting for the Man.”

While the band plays hits such as the power ballad “The Flame” and the rousing “I Want You to Want Me,” it also dove deep into its catalog for tracks such as “Big Eyes” and “Baby Loves to Rock,” fully embracing the raucous garage rock side of sound even if meant alienating some of the crowd.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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