ZZ Top Celebrates

50th Anniversary

At Jacobs Pavilion

September 23, 2019

Two Hall of Fame bands, with close to 100 years experience between them, put on a rock and roll clinic at Jacobs Pavilion on Saturday night, effectively closing out an outstanding summer of live music.

ZZ Top are celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band and Cheap Trick, who formed four years later have seen and done it all.  Both of these bands may not be moving quite as fast as they did back in the day, but both of them still sound fantastic.

The "Little Ol' Band From Texas" hit the stage with their brand of blues and boogie.  Guitarist Billy Gibbons told the crowd that they have been playing Cleveland "for five decades!"  He noted that it's been "the same three guys right here and the same three chords right here," as he pointed to his guitar.

ZZ Top always delivers a straight-up rock and roll show.  Drummer Frank Beard  keeps his head down as he lays down a steady beat, while bassist Dusty Hill and Gibbons trade off on lead vocals.  Occasionally, the duo will do a little Texas two-step or some patented moves that they made famous in their classic videos.

Before their flashy videos on MTV,  ZZ Top made a name for themselves with their Texas-styled blues.  Several songs from their pre-MTV era made the set list such as "Waitin' For The Bus," "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers" and "Pearl Necklace."

Not ignoring their '80s hits, tunes like "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Sharp Dressed Man" had the crowd reminiscing  about fast cars and hot girls. 


Or maybe it was the other way around.

Even a few more recent tunes like "My Heads In Mississippi" and "I Gotsta Get Paid" fit well with the other classic tunes.

They closed their set with "La Grange," "Tush," and great cover of "Jailhouse Rock."

Cheap Trick is a band that just enjoys playing live.  They have just about opened up for everyone, even though they could easily be the headliners.

The band keeps thing fresh by changing the set list every night.  Sure, they always play the hits that you want to hear at the end, but the first half of the show they always throw out a surprise or two for the long-time fans.

Saturday nights surprise was "Need Your Love" a nice deep cut from Dream Police and "Baby Loves To Rock" from All Shook Up

However, the song that got me most excited was a note perfect rendition of "Ain't That A Shame" complete with the drum intro from the At Budokan album.

Robin Zander, as always was in fine form.  Tom Patterson laid down the low end with his 12-string bass and even took over lead vocals on "I'm Waiting For The Man."  Daxx Nielson, who has been drumming for the band since 2010, was steady behind the kit, while his father, Rick proved that he is one of the best guitarists around.


Nielson threw hand fulls of guitar picks into the crowd as usual.  He his also playful with the photographers in the pit.  If you catch his eye, he will grab a pick and throw it directly at the photogs.  I was the target twice. 


But hey, free guitar pick!

The last half of a Cheap Trick show would even get a causal fan on their feet.  These songs are a part of the American lexicon.  Heck, there's even a famous scene in Fast Times At Ridgmont High where the scalper is talking up the band trying to sell some Cheap Trick tickets.

"I Want You To Want Me," "Dream Police" "Surrender" were all played in order, with "California Man" thrown in for good measure.

It was a great night to hear two Hall of Fame bands in the Rock and Roll Capitol of the world. 

Review and photos by Greg Drugan

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