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Concert review: Ted Nugent at the Newport Music Hall

Ted Nugent performing at the Newport Music Hall.
Ted Nugent performing at the Newport Music Hall.
Jason Bodak

Ted Nugent concert

Rating:
Star4
Star
Star
Star
Star

Despite the cooler than average temperatures, it is officially summer now that Ted Nugent played the Newport Music Hall last night. The Motor City Madman’s been performing here every year for so long that a Ted Nugent concert is as much a summer tradition as Clippers baseball and the Jazz and Ribs Fest. Nugent himself said as much to the audience, stating that he tours May through August and then spends the rest of the year “killing sh*t.” That’s classic Ted right there.

Fellow Detroit rockers Pistol Day Parade did an admirable job warming the audience up for Uncle Ted. Vocalist Fuller mentioned that this was the first time the new band has been to Columbus. Judging by their reception, I bet they can’t wait to come back. The Newport was already filled close to capacity when Pistol Day Parade hit the stage, and it wasn’t too long before the crowd got into their brand of radio-ready hard rock. A heavy, driving cover of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” really grabbed the audience’s attention, and by the time the band’s 30-minute set came to an end, hundreds of people were singing along to the chorus of PDP’s brand new single, “Rockstars Girlfriend.”

A brief half-hour later, Nugent stormed the stage with his usual testosterone-rich, alpha male swagger. No matter what anyone thinks of his political stances or his personality, absolutely no one can deny that Nugent is a vibrant and ferocious beast on guitar. There is no way this guy is 65 years old! There’s definitely something to be said for a high-protein diet, exercise and outdoor living. Nugent and his band opened with a pulverizing rendition of “Gonzo,” from his legendary 1978 live album, 'Double Live Gonzo!'

Nugent kept it old school almost all night long. Twelve of the 15 songs in the setlist were taken from his first five solo albums, all of which came out in the 1970s. He even went further back in his catalog at the end of the show, to his Amboy Dukes years, and closing with the 1974 classic “Great White Buffalo.” Not unlike the best metal bands, Nugent has a fervent fanbase, as evidenced by their reception of his newer material. In stark contrast to most of his peers, Nugent’s brand new material, in this case the title track to his brand new album, 'Shut Up & Jam,' was met with cheers and applause instead of a massive exodus to the bar. Several people in the audience repeatedly yelled out requests for “Fred Bear,” Nugent’s 1995 ode to his dear friend and fellow outdoorsman. That track isn’t that well known outside of hunting afficanados and diehard Nugent fans, but they were obliged last night.

Maybe Nugent is mellowing out just a wee little bit: he only sang lead vocals on approximately half the songs in the set. Of course, with original vocalist Derek St. Holmes band in the band, it’s easy to hand over the reins from time to time. He is, after all, the voice heard on many of Nugent’s best known songs, and the man sounds just as great now as he did in 1975. Bassist Greg Smith even got a chance to bask in the spotlight when he sang lead on “Need You Bad,” from 1978’s 'Weekend Warriors,' which, incidentally, was the first Nugent album without Holmes. And while he only sang backup, drummer “Wild” Mick Brown definitely made his presence known throughout the set, pounding the skins with the same intensity he brings to Dokken to Lynch Mob.

Nugent kept his pontificating to a minimum for the most part. He spent much more time praising the soldiers in the US military, but he did say that the president hates him, and that makes him extremely happy. Instead of going on about current events, Nugent and his band squeezed about as much rock into their 100-minute as possible, then left the stage, making us wait till next summer for our next fix of “Full Bluntal Nugity.”

Setlist:
1. Gonzo
2. Just What The Doctor Ordered
3. Free For All
4. Turn It Up
5. Wang Dang Sweet Poontang
6. I Can't Quit You Baby (Otis Rush cover)
7. Live It Up
8. Queen Of The Forest
9. Need You Bad
10. Shut Up & Jam
11. Hey Baby
12. Fred Bear
13. Cat Scratch Fever
14. Stranglehold
15. Great White Buffalo