Nugent doesn't let a little rain dampen his gritty rock 'n' roll
By Jeff Miers
Concert Review / Ted Nugent
With the Gregg Rolie Band on Sunday night at America's Fair in Hamburg.
"Can you feel it? Can you feel the ‘Spirit of the Wild'?" This is what Ted Nugent repeatedly asked the assembled throughout Sunday's rain-drenched show at the Erie County Fair Grandstand. The answer was obvious. Yeah, we felt it. Opener Gregg Rollie canceled his planned set of Santana tunes, which was a drag. But Uncle Ted weren't afraid of no rain, and he came out early to "kill 'em and grill 'em," Nugent style.
What exactly does that mean? Detroit soul mixed with serious guitar muscle, plenty of grease and grit, and everything you'd expect from a man who acknowledges no difference between mastering his hollow body electric guitar, killing and eating his own food, and leaving every ounce of passion for the rock right there on the stage, rain, thunder, lightning, whatever notwithstanding.
The rain and mud and imposing skies were total Nugent, a perfect setting for the man's well-seasoned blend of old-time rock 'n' roll and high-energy Detroit soul, all of it delivered with maximum volume and the sort of guitar-playing virtuosity that comes along only a few times per generation.
Nugent calls his current tour "The Rolling Thunder Tour," and this couldn't have been a more fitting moniker, considering the weather at the Fairgrounds. "A little rain never hurt anybody, did it?" asked Nugent as the set commenced. Then he dug his heels into a Nugentstyle "Star-Spangled Banner," all the while interjecting salutations to the crowd through the wireless microphone that remained wrapped around his chin for the entire gig.
His band was impeccably tight throughout Sunday's show, responding to Nugent's every barked command, following his various whims, and generally behaving like a serious power-trio should.
"Snakeskin Cowboys" introduced the crowd to the Nugent ethic, one that would be followed for the entire evening. "Free For All" made it plain that Nugent is more than proud of his Detroit roots - an idea underscored by his name-dropping of many of the finest African-American soul singers in history at various points during the set, and his covering of the Sam & Dave chestnut "Soul Man" later in the set.
"Wango Tango" came early, and the crowd showed its (soggy) appreciation by following Captain Ted's every command as he moved through the song's Detroit-style blend of blues, hard rock and soul. It's a dirty song, and Nugent made that clear during his mid-song rap. It was a riot.
The center of the set, not surprisingly, came when Nugent absolutely killed his epic "Stranglehold," during which he proved himself to be an absolute genius when it comes to blending feedback-drenched notes, long, languid and legato lines, and incredibly fast blues runs.
It was "Fred Bear," however, that proved to be the surprise of the evening, as it was the sole evidence of Nugent's sensitive side. A paean to the "godfather of bow hunting," Fred Bear, the song provided a rare glimpse into Nugent's emotional life. The crowd responded in kind, as Nugent dropped the over-the-top shenanigans to bare his soul.
Yes, we got "Cat Scratch Fever," and it killed, but more importantly, we got a heavier-than-thou "Dog Eat Dog" and a pair of tunes from the undervalued "Weekend Warriors" album, namely, "Need You Bad" and the title song. Nugent surrendered the vocals for the former to his bass player and handled the latter himself. The more committed Nugent fans in attendance responded with enthusiasm to all of this.
Returning for his encore in a Native-American headdress, Nugent tackled his ode to man's former balance with nature via "Great White Buffalo," and what an encore it was. The guitar soloing on this song alone highlighted Nugent's status as one of the finest pickers of his generation.