July 16, 2013
Grove of Anaheim
Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Kimberly Annette
It had been 25 years since I last saw Ted Nugent in concert, and oh my, how things have changed. In 1988, When I caught a show at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, Nugent was swinging on a vine and had the house in his clutches. Lita Ford opened. Tonight, Nugent wasn’t swinging on any vines but that didn’t stop him from taking charge of the proceedings the minute he stepped on stage. And he had another female guitar player opening the show named Laura Wilde.
Wilde, who hails from Australia, and her three-piece band came out for a randy little set filled with songs from the singer and guitarist’s debut release, Sold My Soul. This is her second summer tour with Uncle Ted, so basic balls-to-the-wall rockers like “For You” and “I Love This City” easily sank in with the crowd (it probably helps that Wilde is very easy on the eyes, too). A stomping take on AC/DC’s “Jailbreak,” along with her own “Sold My Soul,” left the flock screaming for more.
Then it was Nugent’s turn. Emerging from a cloud of smoke just a little after 9, the Nuge sported his usual commando look with a matching Camo Cowboy hat propped firmly on his head, a wispy gray landing strip on his chin and a white hollowed-bodied Gibson Byrdland strapped on like a weapon — a rather appropriate metaphor for the man of the hour. What I realized immediately is that, even at 64, the self-proclaimed Motor City Madman still applies a take no-prisoner’s approach when he’s on stage. The wireless head-set gives him the opportunity to roam and ramble while he slices and dices up the chords (he always has Damn Yankees for the softer stuff).
Even better was the fact that Derek St. Holmes was there, because he wasn’t when I last saw Nugent. His voice and exemplary guitar work are as important to the mix as Nugent’s own zaniness. His vocals on “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” “Stormtroopin’,” “Turn It Up,” “Hey Baby” (introduced as a Motown classic), “Stranglehold,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House” (where he also laid down a nice lead) really are such a big part of Nugent’s sound.
In between the visceral grunts and growls on “Wango Tango” and “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,” Nugent rapped it up about his patriotism (to match his American-flag Les Paul), hunting (some fans dressed the part), the Marines and veterans — topics near and dear to his heart and warmly welcomed by the audience. No stranger to controversy, Nugent’s also been making headlines in recent years with his outspoken views, and there was no holding back tonight, exclaiming at one point: “I feel so good tonight — George Zimmerman is not guilty.”
After Nugent pulled on another Gibson Byrdland, this one black, the band went into animal mode, jumping from “Dog Eat Dog” to ‘Cat Scratch Fever.” You couldn’t help but notice drummer “Wild" Mick Brown, an original member of Dokken, who’s been holding down the beat for Uncle Ted for a while now and has clearly grown into the role as a floor-to-the-board timekeeper. The whole band really locked in for “Stranglehold,” which Nugent called, “The soundtrack to take back America.” An encore of “Great White Buffalo” with a bit of “The Star-Spangled Banner" to finish it off, and the show was over in a flash.
Like so many of his rock contemporaries, Nugent is a true road warrior. An author, a radio show host, an opinionated “pundit” — Ted Nugent is still a madman who wields a mean guitar and calls the shots with bravado and charm.
“I’m an old motherfucker,” he snarled, running his fingers up and down the neck of his guitar.
“I got the spirit of wild inside of me,” he declared just before the end of the show.
“I’m 65 years clean and sober,” he proudly proclaimed while fans guzzled their beer.
Hate him or love him, there’s no denying Ted Nugent is the real deal.