Judah & the Lion Delivers a Message of Hope at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica

Concert Review


  • Samantha Fryberger
Toward the end of last night’s nearly two-hour concert at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, Judah & the Lion front man Judah Akers talked about the highly personal nature of the indie rock band’s latest album, Pep Talks. “The past five years have been some of the loneliest years for me,” he said, adding that it felt like his family was falling apart during that time period. But he encouraged fans to weather whatever storm might come their way. “True hope is something we have to choose,” he added.

The band’s performance mirrored those sentiments as the group delivered an energetic set that overflowed with positivity.

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

It all started with the band performing Pep Talks’ title track while behind a white screen. Band members appeared as silhouettes at this point, and given that his personality drives the band, Akers’ silhouette appropriately stood taller than the shadows of mandolin player Brian Macdonald and banjo player Nate Zuercher.

After the screen dropped to the floor’s stage, Akers began running the length of the stage as the band played self-help obsessed tunes such as “Quarter-Life Crisis,” “Over My Head” and “I’m OK.” Akers effectively alternated between rapping, singing and screaming.

Akers did his best to sound snotty as the band launched into a cover of Blink-182’s “All the Small Things,” and he sat on a stool to start the tender ballad “Queen Songs” without the accompaniment of his band. The group matriculated onto stage as the song went on, and Akers closed the tune by singing a few riffs of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhasody.”

The group then cranked up the volume (the trio is touring with an additional bassist and two hard-hitting percussionists who help bring the noise) for “Don’t Mess with My Mama,” a dubstep-like song that found the band’s bassist screaming through a megaphone. Akers introduced “Going to Mars” with some advice. “You can do whatever you want,” he told fans. "Live your best life.” He paced the stage manically as he turned the song into a righteous sing-along. He rapped over a backing track on the jittery “Joyboy” and then let the percussion section drive “Dance With Ya” before turning back to the piano for a closing melody that included “Pictures,” “Back’s Against the Wall” and “The Best Is Yet to Come.”

For the encore, band members changed into blue jumpsuits. They played the punk-y “Sportz” and then launched into a rousing cover of the Gary Glitter tune “Rock and Roll (Part 2).” The encore also included a spot-on rendition of their latest single, “Why Did You Run?,” a tune that rather explicitly addresses how Akers feels about his parents’ divorce, one of the things that inspired the emotionally charged songs on Pep Talks.

A Swedish-American indie pop duo consisting of singer Shpresa Lleshaj and singer-guitarist Cole Randall, Flora Cash opened the show with a 40-minute set of pretty generic techno-pop tunes that only became engaging at the end when the band delivered the infectious “You’re Somebody Else,” a song that mixed soulful vocals with gentle guitars and slowly built in tempo.

Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.