Ted Nugent

July 14, 2014
Grove of Anaheim
Anaheim, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Ron Lyon

Promoting his latest album, Shutup&Jam!, Ted Nugent rolled into Anaheim for two nights of Motor City-style mayhem. Call it a cliché, but there really is no other way to describe it. I had the opportunity to chat with Nugent recently, and I told him the first time I saw him was when he opened for KISS at Anaheim Stadium in 1976, a mere stone’s throw from where I was seeing him tonight. He recalled the show, and asked me if I remember when he climbed up on the speakers cabinets. I said I didn’t, he laughed and reminded me that he pretty much remembers everything. Seeing him play guitar, sing his songs and spout off about how awesome he and his band are, how screwed up the guns laws in California are, and how great it is to be an American, I realized there’s a lot more than just past shows rolling around in old Uncle Ted’s noggin.

At 65, the man is a fireball of energy. You can attribute that to a healthy regimen of fresh food (“fueled on 100% percent venison”), abstinence of drugs and alcohol, and an overflow of ideas and interests running through his veins that can’t be contained. This all came out on the Grove's stage. A little “Street Fighting Man” from the Stones, and from a dim haze of smoke, Nugent and his band hit the boards running with “Gonzo.” Over the course of 95 minutes, songs like “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” “Free-For-All,” “Turn It Up, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,” “Hey Baby” and “Cat Scratch Fever” were trotted out and the predominantly male crowd ate up each and every note.

Along with the music is a discomforting strain of intensity at Ted Nugent shows, simply because you’re never quite sure what he’s going to say in between songs.

“I invented adorable; tonight, I’m going to perfect it…”

“How do I look this good after all these years?”

“If I’m getting too political for you, fuck you!”

Without getting down and dirty, let’s just say it’s unlikely California Congresswoman and Minority Leader of the House Nancy Pelosi will be welcomed to a Ted Nugent concert anytime soon. Really, though, most of what he rants about is harmless fun, perhaps a tad ill-suited for the thin-skinned. Chances are if you’re there in the first place, you’re prepared to hear whatever he has to say. And if you’re not, well...watch out.

All this might be a lot to take in if it weren’t for the balls-out rock and roll (not a ballad in the bunch). Nugent and his band — guitarist and singer Derek St. Holmes, drummer Mick Brown and bassist Greg Smith — have each and every crevice, break and bridge down cold. The Nuge still throttles the neck of his guitar — be it his famed Gibson Byrdland, his American Flag Les Paul, for which he “reported for duty” and played most of the night, or possibly the zebra-striped PRS guitar he whipped out for a song or two. St. Holmes, of course, took the lead vocals on many of the night's best tunes, including the encore of “Stranglehold.” He’s also an excellent guitarist in his right, laying down a heart-pounding rhythm, taking a few leads, and engaging in axe-to-axe combat with “soul brother” Nugent.

It might have been nice to hear more than the title track — which fit in just fine — from the new album, but that’s typical, even in light of a strong record like Shutup&Jam!. The one thing you can’t say is that Ted Nugent doesn’t aim to please. For all his arrogance and swagger, he repeatedly expressed gratefulness for where he is today, and acknowledged his heroes — Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, John Coltrane, BB King, Albert King, Motown, Steve Ray Vaughn. “Don’t forget where you’re coming from…” Take him or leave him, you never know what’s coming (or going) at a Ted Nugent show.


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