“I am like Eddie Murphy in ‘Raw,’ and they are trying to make me into Eddie Murphy in ‘Daddy Day Care.’ Both great movies, but still.” – Michael Scott (Steve Carell) on The Office
Somewhere near the middle of his smoldering 80-minute set at the Erie County Fair on Sunday night, Ted Nugent held up a sign that read “PG-13.” To those unversed in the Nugent brand, that may appear to be a mere formality, but, believe me, it runs much deeper than that.
When making such a request, the promoters impose a politically correct philosophy on an artist whose autonomy and insolent spirit have propelled him to where he is today, so putting a muzzle on the madness only defeats the purpose of why he was booked to play in the first place.
Ted’s towering guitar skills and proclivity for speaking his mind on issues of all sizes have established his concerts as polarizing events that thrive on constitutional chest beating, and, like Michael Scott’s Take Your Daughter to Work Day experience, they’re not the same if too much bureaucratic control is executed.
That said, Sunday’s collection of firearms and classic rock gems laced with anti-Obama rhetoric was a sight to behold from beginning to end. One could be the most ardent liberal and still become awed once his Gibson Byrdland opens up the heavens with its natural authority.
“Wango Tango,” “Stormtroopin,’” and “Just What the Doctor Ordered” were fired right off the bat as Derek St. Holmes really chewed into the vocals on the latter two tracks. Having him back in the band has re-energized the sound in irreplaceable fashion, because his voice is truly iconic for fans.
As Nugent himself told me, “his classic voice on my classic masterpieces represents musical milestones for mankind.”
The rhythm section of Greg Smith (Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow et al.) and “Wild” Mick Brown (formerly of Dokken) isn’t to be ignored either as they round out the mastery with which Ted’s current band operates.
Although the original incarnation is unforgettable, it’s hard to argue that the 2012 version’s work isn’t right on par with the best of them. Hits such as “Hey Baby,” “Cat Scratch Fever,” and “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” have never sounded more intimidating.
A cover of “Red House” from the Jimi Hendrix Experience was an inspired deviation from last year’s set at Artpark, and it was cool to hear a smoky 12-bar blues strewn among the breakneck soloing. St. Holmes adeptly handled the singing duties while Ted hammered away on a Les Paul.
The song everyone came to hear, “Stranglehold,” closed out the evening with Ted nailing the solo note for arduous note. This marked the second time I’ve seen him play the song and it still sent shockwaves through my entire system.
While the aforementioned Artpark show benefitted from the lack of censorship, this one will go down as one of the most electrifying rock shows of 2012 nonetheless. The songs were stellar, the weather was ideal, and not even the softees at the Fair could tame the beast entirely.