Westbury, New York
August 1, 2012
By Joe Lalaina
Photo by Marc Nader
Gonzo | Just What the Doctor Ordered |Wango Tango | Turn It Up | Free for All | Stormtroopin’ | Wang Dang Sweet Poontang | Red House | Need You Bad| Live It Up | Hey Baby | Fred Bear | Cat Scratch Fever | Stranglehold
Anticipation for Ted Nugent’s performance was running high among the people in attendance prior to the start of the show. “I’ve been waiting for months to see this show,” exclaimed one fan in the lobby of the NYCB Theatre just minutes before Nugent and his band took the stage. “I bought my tickets the day they went on sale.” Another concertgoer chimes in: “Nugent’s former rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist, Derek St. Holmes, is playing in Ted’s band on this tour. The best material of Nugent’s career was the music he made with Derek in his band. Something tells me this is going to be an excellent show.”
Nugent’s prominence as a guitar hero and a renowned rock ‘n’ roll artist is based primarily on his music from the Seventies as a solo artist, namely his first three studio albums (Ted Nugent, Free-for-All and Cat Scratch Fever) and subsequent live album (Double Live Gonzo!). These are all classic albums which put the “hard” in hard rock, and they all featured St. Holmes, who left the band shortly thereafter. Nowadays, Nugent is better known for his loud mouth than his loud guitar playing, as he is often heard on talk shows ranting about politics, social issues, guns and hunting.
Nugent’s loud mouth and loud guitar playing were cranked and loaded at this show. “I’m going to rock your socks off,” Uncle Ted declared early into his performance. “I love playing my rhythm ‘n’ blues shit for you guys, and I know you love it, too. I always spend the summer months rockin’ my balls off and the rest of the year killing shit.” Even though he hasn’t had a hit song in 35 years—Nugent’s last hit was “Cat Scratch Fever” in 1977, which he referred to as “the single greatest guitar riff in the history of the world” before launching into the song tonight—Nugent still thinks he’s at the pinnacle of his career even though he drew just 900 people, which is less than a third of the venue’s capacity.
Nevertheless, Nugent and his hotshot band—bassist Greg Smith, drummer “Wild” Mick Brown (formerly of Dokken) and Derek St. Holmes—put on a riveting show. The group played with as much gusto as a band would display playing Madison Square Garden, a venue which, incidentally, Nugent headlined in 1977 at the height of his career. St. Holmes, in particular, deserves praise. His lead vocals were pivotal to the original recordings of many of the songs in tonight’s set list, and his tight rhythm guitar playing provided a solid foundation for Nugent to unleash his signature blistering blues-based leads. As soon as St. Holmes broke into the vocals during the second song, “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” one of the many standout tracks from Nugent’s debut solo album—to many people’s ears, Nugent’s best album and rightfully so—the crowd was ecstatic, singing along to every word. Other St. Holmes-period songs included “Stormtroopin’,” “Live It Up,” “Hey Bay” and the eight-minute-plus Nugent tour de force “Stranglehold,” during which the Motor City Madman’s Gibson Byrdland soared into the stratosphere, as he let loose a succession of crisp, clean notes with incredible power and sustain.
“I’ve been clean and sober all 63 years of my life,” Nugent asserted before playing “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.” “No drugs, alcohol, tobacco or fat pussy—that stuff will kill you! My mind is sharper and clearer than it’s ever been and I plan on rockin’ for many years to come.”
Hopefully, Nugent will take some time off when hunting season comes along and write some great songs with St. Holmes and ultimately release a superb album with his former and current band mate. We all know that Nugent is a thrilling guitarist and performer—he’ll tell you so himself—but his repertoire predominantly showcases Uncle Ted’s heyday-era songs and he hasn’t released a truly outstanding album in more than three decades. Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar is the title of a Frank Zappa album, and Nugent should do just that. He really needs to put down his bow and arrow and temporarily leave his firearms and hunting gear in storage after this tour and get back into the studio and crank out some exciting new music. We know you can do it, Ted.