City National Grove of Anaheim
July 14, 2014
There are certain people who simply create their own gravity. They exist in all walks of life and in all professions. The species are easy to identify, yet a cloud of mystery typically enshrouds them, hiding the answer to the question: "Is this guy for real, or is it all flash and dazzle?" The truth, likely, exists somewhere in between — case in point, Ted Nugent.
Nugent brought his show to City National Grove of Anaheim this weekend, and it cannot be said that he did not tear the roof off the joint. The 65-year-old hard rocker, who has gone by the names Sweaty Teddy, The Nuge, The Motor City Madman, and Uncle Ted, is a textbook showman whose concerts are just as much about music as they are about production. The image that stands upon the stage is drenched in red, white, and blue, and braggadocio pours from his mouth. He espouses Right Wing ideology; he beams that he has been drug and alcohol free his entire life; he claims that in the kingdom of guitar heaven he is a god; and he never ceases plugging his image or his various projects. Despite all that noise, he still puts on a great show!
His band included fellow Michigan singer / guitarist Derek St. Holmes, who has performed and recorded with Nugent — fairly steadily — since 1975. Greg Smith (Alice Cooper) played bass, and Mick Brown (Dokken) played drums. The band was very tight, and St. Holmes is a pretty incredible performer in his own right.
Perhaps it was the fact that this show was in Orange County, but, for as much of a rocking show as Nugent puts on, there were very few youths present at The Grove. The audience essentially consisted of the same metalheads, rock 'n rollers, and swivel-hipped girls that had likely gone to his concerts 30 years ago. This is not really surprising considering that Nugent has always been most popular (and very prolific — regularly travelling and performing around 300 days a year) as a live act, and today's youth is more-or-less reliant on electronic devices for cultivating their tastes. Then again, perhaps old-school rock warriors are an anachronism that does not resonate with today's youth. Regardless, there were enough lively fans to decently fill the 1,700 capacity theater.
[Nugent's set included some old favorites as well as some more recent material, including songs from his newly released album Shutup & Jam. As far as the music is concerned, there is nothing really profound happening, lyric wise or compositionally; Nugent's oeuvre has always consisted of simple concepts, catchy licks, and high energy performances.
That being said, one could conclude that the gravity ol' Uncle Teddy generates is grassroots, good showmanship. And given most of the people in the USA celebrate the anniversary of this country's independence by staring at glittery flames in the sky, the combination of experiencing high energy rock music performed amidst comments like "Every song I've got is a mother fucker" and "If you like Nancy Pelosi, you are mentally fucking deranged," is a recipe for a jolly entertaining evening — regardless of whether or not it makes any sense.
Critical Bias: Although perennial faves "Stranglehold," "Cat Scratch Fever," and "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" were performed, there was no "Great White Buffalo."
Overheard in the Crowd: One or two "Boo"s during Nugent's rant about California's gun laws. These were quickly drowned out by the intense volume of Nugent's attitudinal response and guitar amplifiers.
Random Notebook Dump: Nugent was pretty vocal about the African American roots of his music, and played "You Shook Me," yet I did not see a single black person in the theater…He is likely his own biggest fan as he announced that if he were not on stage performing, he would be in the audience watching his show; additionally, he had a GoPro camera strapped to the head of his guitar, filming himself while he performed.