With the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” cranking over the PA. Ted Nugent and his band exploded onto the stage at HOB in Orlando Sunday night. Festooned in his omnipresent camouflage cowboy hat, the legendary guitar hero tore up the stage on his Great White Buffalo Tour with a fantastic display of pristine guitar rock.
Nugent was his typical outspoken, entertaining self and absolutely on top of his guitar game from the opening notes of “Gonzo” throughout the entire 90 minute set. We were also treated to the reunion of Nugent and original vocalist/rhythm guitarist Derek St. Thomas, who has returned to the band after a long break. St. Thomas took the lead vocal on the second song’ “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” and sounded like he hadn’t missed a beat throughout the show.
Playing in front of a hug American flag and sporting a flag emblazoned Gibson for a few songs, Nugent is still a patriotic guy. He doesn’t hide his patriotism, nor his conservative political fervor: “The whole world sucks, but here in America it sucks a little less.” He bashed Obama all night to the point of distraction, actually reminding me of the annoying anti-Bush rants of Springsteen a decade ago. It would have been nice to have had him back off the preaching and offer up an extra song or two.
Wild “Mick” Brown (Dokken) on drums and Greg Smith on bass kept the Motown beat going all night. Smith took the vocals and showcased his bass playing on a nice version of “Need You Bad.” Brown, Smith and St. Thomas were the constant driving force, but this is truly all about Uncle Ted on guitar. Nugent traded off between a couple of his trusty Gibson guitars as he played in front of a wall of amps decorated with more than a dozen hanging guitars (as a well as a few machine guns). The guitar was loud all night, but those classic guitar riffs from “Wango Tango,” “Free For All” and some classic Blues and Rock flashbacks (“Cool Jerk”) were near perfect.
Nugent interacted with the crowd all night, and seemed to be having a great time, grooving to good old American Rock and Roll, with a Motor City Madmen’s Motown touch. He was his typical humorous, cocky self and just as over the top, as ever. He was truthfully a bit of an ass, but just as soon as his pomposity started hitting new levels “…don’t you just love me..” his guitar magnificence brought us back around.
At 63, Nugent hasn’t lost anything as a showman. He knows how to please an audience, and was all over the stage playing solo after solo to the delight of the packed house. A raucous “Cat Scratch Fever” closed out the set and brought the crowd to a fever pitch, which carried on through to the ten minutes of musical genius of the encore, “Stranglehold,” which is one of the most under-appreciated rock music masterpieces, and a timeless guitar song.
Overall, a fun night with a rabid crowd and one hell of a talented guitarist. “Don’t you just love him…”