Ted Nugent at House of Blues, 8/22/2013
Photos by Jim Bricker
Ted Nugent House of Blues August 22, 2013
Music and politics go hand in hand. Ever since the first person put lyrics to a beat, politics have been involved. Ted Nugent and politics also go hand in hand, which was obvious from the moment he hit the stage at House of Blues Thursday night.
Armed with a three-piece backing band, Nugent brought his politics and music to Houston last night, and for a good hour and 45 minutes the adoring crowd ate up every single minute of it. There were two different performances during the show -- the music side, which featured some of the best playing I've seen in a while, and the political side, which surely had a lot to say.
I'm fortunate enough to enjoy the beginning of most shows I attend in the photo pit, which gives me unprecedented viewing of every artist I see. While I'm usually busy taking pictures, sometimes a band just makes me stop what I'm doing, drop my camera and stare with a gaping jaw. Nugent and his band did just that. They played their hearts out with every note they dropped.
It was somewhat of a spectacle watching what these four guys were doing onstage. I haven't seen a band play with this much intent in such a long time that it was somewhat refreshing.
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I'm not sure what I expected walking into HOB last night, but it assuredly wasn't what I received from Nugent and company's performance. I guess I originally went for the humor of it all, but I didn't once laugh once I was there. Yeah, the crowd was just what you'd expect -- probably calling a ranch their home and Duck Dynasty tuned into their televisions on most days -- but they were there because they loved the music. And the music was there.
Of course they played "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Stranglehold," which closed out the set back to back, but the real magic came from the 15 or so songs they played beforehand. "Gonzo" opened up the curtains with the band illuminated in bright white light and clouded in smoke, while "Wango Tango" was a pulsating 15-minute rocker.
"Turn It Up" did just what its title asked, and the crowd, mostly being men in their mid-fifties with black bowling shirts and rubber-banded ponytails, were raising not only one but both arms in the air in appreciation.
"Free For All" and "Stormtroopin'" were killers, but it was "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang," which Nugent described as "a song for the ladies," that was the hottest of the night. His love for hunting is something he's far from shy about, and that was evident in the tune "Fred Bear," a song about his old friend who was particularly influential in his love for the sport. The show finished with "Great White Buffalo," a fitting closer considering the beautiful white-buffalo guitar Nugent was rocking throughout the song.
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The other show came during the break from the songs. It's obvious that Nugent leans to the right -- like, way to the right -- but I didn't expect him to be as vocal as he was about it throughout the show. It's clear that he can't stand our current President, at one point apologizing to the crowd for having to deal with him as the leader of our country.
It's clear he doesn't agree with the left in general, shouting late in the set, "Hey Barack, hey Eric Holder, hey Hillary Clinton, hey Sheila Jackson Lee. Kiss my ass!!" It's clear that he loves the idea of freedom. What wasn't clear was what we should do about it.
I'm not saying that I disagree with Nugent's views -- actually, I agree with several of them -- it just mostly came off as bitching more than trying to solve anything. Still, though, his crowd was there, and if the vote was tomorrow and he were running, he'd have several thousand backers just from that packed room alone.
At the end of the day, though, this night was about the music. It didn't matter what he had to say as long as he was playing the blues, and play the blues he did. Nugent's influences were all out on the table too, playing in the style of both Bo Diddley and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
At one point during "Wang Dang," he literally listed all of his influences - from Chuck Berry, B.B. King and James Brown to Little Richard, Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett, they were all there. At 65 years of age, he should start thinking about adding his own name to that list.
While the night did feature two different performances, the music definitely shone brighter than the politics. It was a ripping set of classic tunes, performed by a guy that could walk musical circles around today's wave of radio-poppers and indie-rockers. He can say whatever the hell he wants based solely on the fact that he backs it up by classic-rock tunes that sound even better now than they did 40 years ago.
While it might not align with many of your beliefs, at least Nugent has a message -- a rare thing these days in the world of music.
Personal Bias: I was a kid who grew up in Nebraska with classic rock on the radio. I heard Ted Nugent as much as I did Led Zeppelin.
The Crowd: Mostly male. A lot of camouflage. Camel smokers. Gun owners.
Overheard In the Crowd: The silent but deadly riffs of the guy who air-guitared his way through the entire set right next to me.
Random Notebook Dump: Whatever you do, do NOT use the nickname "The Nuge" in your review.
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