While being amazing, Ted Nugent and his band are an acquired taste, and probably not for you.
The rock and roll legend brought a ferocious, loud and all-American party of fucking and killing to DC suburban concert outpost Fillmore Silver Spring on Friday evening. It was goddamned awesome.
It’s entirely possible to cast the worst of stereotypical aspersions upon fans of Ted Nugent. As teens at the “Motor City Madman”‘s hard rocking mainstream height, they were unapologetic about their heightened state of sexual arousal. In 1977, Nugent entitled his biggest selling album Cat Scratch Fever, and alongside the eponymous lead single, there’s the live crowd favorite, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,” and one of classic rock’s heaviest odes to auto-erotic asphyxiation, “Stranglehold.” These are kids who grew up, and have added to their ravenous love of sex a complete adoration of guns, and for the art of hunting. Nugent’s arguably overbearing proclamations of appreciating these American liberties has morphed the now hard rock gray beard into a staunch political conservative in love with his right to free speech, bearing arms and the rest of the Bill of Rights.
If you were some sort of namby pamby vegetarian and/or Bambi-loving liberal, this probably wasn’t the best night for you in this Fillmore location’s brief history. “The Nuge” didn’t say that, but, he did definitely say that “(He gets) up and goes to work in the morning and assholes blow up.” That was before he proclaimed that he “wanted to clean up that mess in the White House,” and just prior to him thanking the members of the Armed Forces in attendance at the concert. All of this was done to a mix of whoopin’ and hollering typically meant for a Southern Baptist tent revival and the bellowing roar of men who ride Harley Davidsons and consume gallons of booze for fun. Yes, stereotypes are typically wrong. Claiming that 100% of people do much of anything is ignorant. But, the vitriolic fervor of Nugent and his band’s invective is such that folks who aren’t these exact people or aspire to their level of being great Americans need not even show up at the front door of the venue.
Nugent’s band is uniquely engineered for laying down destructive grooves. And by grooves, I mean soulful party music. Noting that “a lot of Motown’s Funk Brothers as well as James Brown are no longer with us, he stated that “(he wanted) to call my band the ‘Soul Brothers’ for a minute, and play you some new material!” Such heavy praise is deserved. “Wild” Mick Brown is a titan of a drummer, and for a guy who likely has played his fair share of stadiums and European festivals, the comparatively intimate Fillmore Silver Spring never stood a chance. It felt as if he was he was laying tracks for trains instead of hot sounds, which, given the nature of the songs the band was playing, was absolutely necessary. Greg Smith’s bass sits with strength behind the Madman’s virtuoso licks, while Derek St. Holmes’ work in sharing lead vocals with the legendary “Whackmaster” Nugent has always been critically acclaimed.
Night closer “Stranglehold” was a story unto itself. Much like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” live, it’s the reason why you buy the ticket, and the band knows it. Nugent’s lead guitar still takes off like a jet exactly the way everybody in the room remembers it from the first time. It’s one of the most important virginal ear rapings in the life of any hard rock fanatic. It’s a heavy, sultry groove, and yes…yes, there’s Derek St. Holmes’ insurgent yet finessed vocals, the sweet sexy entreat to a young woman for a night of raucous and illicit pleasure. Yes, he’s going to put you in a stranglehold, and yo have no choice but to love it. Still, 21 years after I heard it for the first time as a repressed heterosexual at an all-boy’s summer camp, it has the same effect, a leering feel that borders on a near orgasmic experience. The band knows exactly where this one is headed, and it’s one of the ultimate symphonies of filth. Clocking in on Friday night at ten minutes of power chords, power drums, heavy shreds and lyrical obscenity, it was wonderful.
In front of a background of the American flag and in front of proud men who served our country in foreign conflict, a venison-obsessed resident of Detroit, Michigan and his band sang an All-American tale of having a woman in a stranglehold, then crushing her face.
Once again, Ted Nugent is amazing. But probably not for you.