As has been a virtually annual gathering for over fifty years, Ted Nugent and his brand of classic rock made its way to Columbus, OH for a stop on the Sonic Baptizm tour. Hosting the event was the PromoWest venue; Express Live! While the Nuge has his detractors, his fans once again packed the indoor show to dance with Uncle Ted.
That Ted Nugent is not often mentioned in the same breath as the greatest guitarists is criminal. It’s also highly political. That’s the same reason that this guitar picker from Detroit and his band aren’t in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Politics aside, for a moment, there is absolutely no reason that this body of work isn’t included in those supposed sacred halls.
With a unique classic rock sound that truly blends the earliest rhythm and blues and soul and funk together with an overdose of Midwestern American rock & roll, there isn’t quite anything like a Ted Nugent show. All music fans should bear witness to it at least a dozen times. This is the tightest sounding band that you may ever hear. Replacing Mick Brown on the drums with a relatively unknown drummer is a bold move, and Jason Hartless makes that move pay off. The newest Thundergod of the band fits in seamlessly and doesn’t miss a beat. Literally.
To understand the Nugent psyche, one must be in the asset column of life. You don’t find Bernie Sanders supporters mingling at a Ted Nugent concert because they largely don’t understand the asset column. Nugent exemplifies a lifestyle of work hard, play harder. Kill it and grill it. A do it yourself and pave your own path kind of spirit that even in his 68th year sounds so refreshing when phrased so eloquently. A cunning linguist, indeed, he makes music for the “real sh*tkickers” that are productive members of society.
And so it was, on Thursday night at Express Live!, not an “I’m With Her” sign to be found. An exclusive event for an exclusive sect of society that still abides by a “We the People” spirit and attitude. All of that real rock & roll spirit, the real rock & roll rebellion is flawlessly enhanced by the greatest guitar tone in the world. The wail and hum of Ted Nugent’s guitar sound is perfection. The man is 68 years old and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. His longevity in this business is certainly attributable to his clean living lifestyle and dedication to his craft. Too often in this industry, good musicians get tripped up by drink and drug and we sadly watch the crash and burn end to another iconic life. For all intents and purposes, this man should not be able to perform this way at his age. Every year up and coming bands that talk a big game but can’t come close to putting out the intensity and raw energy on stage that a man three times their age does.
This is primitive music for primitive people. That is a compliment. From Uncle Ted’s primal screams and blistering solos to Greg Smith’s right hand hitting bass strings at light speed, there isn’t a better band representative of Midwestern, sh*tkicking rock & roll. With a catalog of hits like “Free For All” and “Snakeskin Cowboys” early in the show and the anthems at the end, it’s no surprise that the loyal fans of Columbus and other music loving cities in this country continue to turn out in numbers to witness what may just be the last of my guitar heroes that still perform their craft at an exceptionally high level.
All of the songs at a Ted Nugent show are wonderful, but the back end of this set list could be put up against any of his peers. “Fred Bear”, is the greatest hunting song ever written and the camo-clad crowd hung on to every lyric. Followed by “Motor City Madhouse”, the band was so tight the aforementioned Smith’s right hand was only visible as a blur, just so he could keep up. Of course there is “Cat Scratch Fever” and the “number one guitar lick in the history of the world” on “Stranglehold” which not only lays claim to that riff but should also be mentioned as one of the greatest guitar solos of all-time. To come back out and encore with “The Great White Buffalo” with snippets of “The Spirit of the Wild” mixed in, quite easily finished one of the better five song stretches ever seen or heard.
The only boos from the crowd on this night were when Uncle Ted asked the crowd if, at 68, if he should just act his age. Met with a resounding chorus of boos, the band kicked off the above five song block to close out the night. Away from the glow of the city lights that have been replaced by the glow of the moon and stars, the primal instincts of mankind are alive and well. Reflecting on what was witnessed tonight it should be all too apparent to the concertgoers of what is at stake these days.
Never stop believing. Trample the weak and hurdle the dead. Take it back, America. Yeah, as Ted would say, no sh*t!?