It’s a shame Ted Nugent’s right-wing remarks on government, crime, and culture make the headlines more often than his music lately. He’s produced a solid chunk of guitar-driven rustbelt rock over his lengthy career and still puts on a hell of a show, sometimes working archery and Indian headdresses into his outdoors-oriented visuals.
But the outspoken guitarist managed to polarize even his own constituents with his comments about slain teenager Trayvon Martin in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, and just last week—following a podcast with interviewer Nick Cannon—he was accused of comparing people with pooches.
And if anyone knows his critters, it’s Nugent, an avid hunter and firearms aficionado.
The Motor City Madman dropped his latest bombshell during a discussion with Cannon over escalating gang violence in Chicago and his native Detroit. What Nugent implied (and what prudent listeners understood) was that he approves of profiling as a law enforcement tool, nothing more or less—and lacking overt reference to specific skin tones. And Nugent newshounds know his analogy dates at least as far back as his May 7, 2010 Washington Times editorial:
In fact, “Uncle Ted” spent a lot of time praising black musicians during his Tuesday night concert at House of Blues and rattled off a list of African-American mentors like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. He also alluded repeatedly to the majesty of Motown, and to rock’s R&B progenitors, making good on his tour title of—wait for it—Black Power 2013.
“B.B. King, Albert King, Freddie King…I love ‘em!” announced Nugent. “Tonight we’re gonna prove we’re all James Brown’s children.”
What followed was a hundred-minute hell ride though Ted’s prodigious 35-year old catalog that eschewed mid-career discs like Hunt Music, Craveman, and Love Grenade for earlier works boasting his biggest hits. Dressed in a camouflage vest (with cutoff sleeves) and an arrowhead-adorned safari hat, the goateed Nugent looked just as ready to bag a buck as blast out bushman anthems like “Gonzo” and “Wango Tango” on his custom sunburst tobacco Gibson Byrdland guitar. But blast Nugent did—and with nary a drop of blood spilled in the process.
Oh sure, he laid down the gospel a la Ted, too, but nobody’s feathers got ruffled. Nugent was preaching to the converted.
Visually and vocally, Derek St. Holmes is still an effective foil for his longtime partner / employer. Preferring metropolitan chic to Nugent’s woodsy pragmatism, St. Holmes sported a denim jacket over a lavender tee and stylish porkpie hat while singing the ‘70s songs that turned he and Ted into arena superstars. Greg Smith pinned the low end of the mix with thick, warbling bass, grooving to drummer Mick Brown’s stick work on “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” “Turn It Up,” and “Free-For-All.”
Nugent dedicated “Stormtroopin’” to the American revolutionaries who fought off British invaders in the 1770s and recalled how he wrote the tune in observation of the nation’s bicentennial. He introduced “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” as “the ultimate love song,” then steered the tantalizing tune’s pile-driving riffs into an extended blues jam that channeled guitar greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, and…well, Ted Nugent. The string-bending romp segued into a cool cover of “I Can’t Quit You Baby”—the Willie Dixon-penned zinger popularized by Led Zeppelin—which saw St. Holmes rendering a competent Robert Plant impression on the microphone.
“Never forget where you came from,” Nugent preached into his headset, bending strings and sliding his fingers over the guitar neck.
“I love this shit. And tonight, we’re gonna perfect perfection.”
The show revved into its second half with seize-the-day ditty “Live It Up” and Nugent’s 1975 eponymous album-capper “Queen of the Forest.” Recorded two decades later, “Fred Bear” saluted the infamous bow-hunter (whose surname just happened to match his favorite quarry). “Hey Baby” barreled into FM mainstays “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Stranglehold,” both of which were stretched out to accommodate guitar solos (and duels). Nugent and company encored with Double Live Gonzo classic “Great White Buffalo.”
Smith’s drum rostrum was flanked by Old Glory one side and Ohio’s state flag on the other (the latter changes according to venue), and at one point Nugent wielded a star-spangled and zebra-striped axes (and white and black versions of the big-bodied Gibson). Buffalo skulls decorated Nugent’s speaker cabinets, eerie red lights glowing in the eye sockets. Both St. Holmes and Nugent flicked so guitar picks into the audience—like pieces of Halloween candy—that you’re in the minority if you didn’t catch one.
24-year old blonde bombshell Laura Wilde opened the show with eight cuts from her 2012 debut Sold My Soul. Recently emigrated from the land down under, Wilde warmed the HOB crowd with hard rockers like “Show Me Love,” “Scarlet Woman,” and “I Love This City” and wooed ‘em with metal ballad “For You.”
Clad in strategically torn black denim (with a flannel shirt tied ‘round her waist), Wilde inspired memories of ‘80s femme fatales Lita Ford and Joan Jett. But like those lady rockers of yore, the Aussie’s guitar prowess belied her cover girl good looks: Laura can shred with the best of them.
The former Australia’s Got Talent house guitarist was backed by bassist Jeff Sobostaine (who wore a Whiskey Island T-shirt) and R.J. Shankle, who enjoyed a mini-drum solo following a strident cover of AC-DC’s “Jailbreak.” Wilde said the stocking-capped rhythm guitarist Chris Price is a “born Ohio boy.”
Watch Laura Wilde’s latest video here:
Nugent’s tour continues in Indianapolis. His August 2nd show in hometown Detroit is military ID night: All veterans and those currently enlisted can receive two free lawn tickets (while supplies last) with ID.