July 15, 2016
Ted Nugent didn't refer to President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel" on Friday night. Nor did he issue calls for Obama and Hillary Clinton to be hung for their roles in the attacks on the American compound in Benghazi, as he's done in the past. In fact, Nugent — AKA the Motor City Madman, AKA "The Nuge" — was remarkably restrained for at least the first half of the Warehouse Live leg of his "Sonic Baptizm" tour, introducing familiar tunes like "Gonzo" and "Free-For-All" early on and generally coasting on the goodwill of the well-lubricated crowd.
It didn't last.
Nugent's prompt, you have to give him that, stepping out at 9 o'clock sharp onto a stage tastefully bedecked with animal skulls and backdropped by a giant American flag. As is his usual MO, he opened with "The Star-Spangled Banner" and dedicated the night's show to the heroes of the Dallas Police Department. Not much controversy there, unless you want to be a nitpicky asshole and note nobody in the audience took their gimme caps off during the national anthem. But then, neither did Ted.
The Nuge loves Texas, in case you didn't know (he's lived here for 12 years). His affection apparently doesn't go into specifics, as he inexplicably introduced "Free-For-All" by referring to it as the Houston Texans' theme song. He also alternately referred to us as "shit kickers," "cowboys" and "real American shit takers." Which doesn't actually sound all that complimentary.
But then, the stage talk consisted mostly of stock banter, including a pledge to "rock all fucking night" (the show lasted about 100 minutes, which probably qualifies for most AARP members). The Nuge also curses like a 12-year-old who just discovered the f-word, which earned a few whoops of appreciation at first, but then became frankly embarrassing.
As the show wore on — and I mean that literally, because you can only stretch a dozen songs and change out to 90 minutes thanks to some excessively wanky guitar solos — Nugent's rhetoric returned. This was welcomed by an audience coming to the realization they only know about four of his songs. There were the expected calls for support of the American military, as the Nuge named each branch (and also the Texas National Guard), which would also qualify as a list of military branches Nugent himself never served with. He's part of a lengthy list of conservative entertainers who bleat about the sacrifices of the military yet have never enlisted, or have even gone to (allegedly) hilarious lengths to avoid conscription.
Nugent's political discourse continued with comments on the predicament of unemployment in the United States ("If you don't have a job in America, you're a piece of shit"), and the dilemma of those facing difficulties with their job search ("If you've given up looking for work, you're French," super timing less than a day after the attack in Nice). "Uncle Ted" wouldn't get dinner if he didn't do his chores, you see, which is a totally analogous situation to IT workers laid off thanks to offshoring help-desk operations.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, those comments were better received than Nugent's constant pronouncements of his love of soul music, referring to his music as "real American R&B" (Nugent's big on the 'real American' thing, in case you weren't paying attention) and calling his band (bassist Greg Smith and drummer Jason Hartless) as the "Funk Brothers." When he made the (assumedly sincere) comment about playing nothing but soul music all night long, there were boos from the crowd.
I have my...suspicions for why that comment wasn't well-received, but here's the thing: you can't willfully court extremism and profess a love for soul music at the same time. You can't say something like, "The President's still trying to figure this shit [dealing with ISIS] out, because he's an asshole," and use that as your intro to "Hey Bo Diddley." And if you don't understand why that is, it's not because you're an iconoclast who shoots from the hip (among other places), it's because you're an idiot.
The comments were the only things keeping the audience engaged at that point, and Nugent probably understands his discography isn't strong enough to keep a crowd locked in for a whole hour and a half. Things perked back up a bit when he launched into "Cat Scratch Fever," then sagged again during "Stranglehold," which people tend to forget is a freaking eight-minute song.
To his credit, Nugent didn't issue any calls for the assassination of political leaders on Friday. Trouble is, given the fairly mediocre quality of his concerts these days, what else is there to bring people in? He's skated by on decades-old material for quite some time, and will most likely continue to do so. And as long as there are those willing to elect Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, Nugent will sell tickets.
Personal Bias: My first exposure to the Nuge was his version of the "Get High On Yourself" song my junior high health teacher played as part of their totally successful efforts to keep kids off the Mary Jane.
The Crowd: Nine-tenths old, white and angry. One-tenth morbidly curious.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Yeah, he moved to Texas because of Michigan's pussy gun laws!" [Nugent actually moved to Texas for his wife's health]
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Random Notebook Dump: I caught a Bulbasaur during "Cat Scratch Fever:"
The Star-Spangled Banner
Never Stop Believing (Blues)
Yank Me, Crank Me
Wang Dang Sweet Poontang
Hey Bo Diddley/Johnny B. Goode
Good Friends and a Bottle of Wine
Cat Scratch Fever
The Great White Buffalo