Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia
Terrible Ted was at his finest that night. In between rocking out, Ted Nugent praised the country and all the real Americans while heaped loads of derision on the government, woke values, and gun laws of any sort. He hit all the talking points for a conservative Trump-loving audience. He led even chant – not once, but twice – of “ Fuck Joe Biden,” though provided no reasons for his hatred of Sleepy Joe.
The West Virginia casino crowd got it though. For the encore, they chanted not Nugent’s name, but rather “U-S-A! U.S.A.!”
He reserved a particular rancor for those in the LGBT+ community. The guitar slinger informed his audience that there were only two genders, and that all the rest was “bullshit."
He then commented that he dressed up as a Viking one Halloween, but he didn’t go around identifying as a Viking, he said.
I dunno though. After all these years, Nugent still reads pretty heavily as a “Viking.” If Nug were to self-identify as Viking, I’m pretty sure no one would complain.
In fact, his Viking tendencies have done him fairly well in life, I’d say. And maybe he'd do even better these days if he didn't get so hung up on the binary. More on this later.
But for all his hatred for the non-binary genders, he held ever a deeper contempt for, wait, what? Country music singers?
“Sure I’ll play country music … when my dick falls off,” he joked to the audience.
Johnny Cash didn’t have a dick? Hank Williams? If not, then who are all those little Hanks running around? Want to tell Chris Stapleton he doesn't have a dick? Good luck with that.
But more to the point: This derision is bizarre because every thing about Ted Nugent reads country music, from his cowboy hat to his wave-flagging patriotism.
I don’t know if he’s noticed, but most of the Bro Country today sounds more like rock n roll, borrowing heavily from Lynyrd Skynyrd and even Nugent himself, more like rock n roll than whatever is left of rock n roll these days.
He even commented tellingly that when he hears a country song he wished they’d turn up the guitar part. Which is telling, if that is the only thing that is wrong with country. Truth is most country songs cut off the guitar solo after the end of the first four measures which is, unless your guitarist is Nugent, probably a good idea.
Most of Nugent’s songs are, at their heart, simple, durable pop construction, much like country music is. Also, one of the core themes in the Nugent’s songs have been nature and wild life, a country theme if there ever was one. Not of the partying kind, but rather nature itself.
And for all his trolling of the left, his love of nature and the land appears to be core to Nug’s own goofy being, and country is all about the genuine. He owns a hunting ranch in Michigan. He’s probably hunted and fished more than the current crop of country music celebrities, collectively.
Take what is arguably his finest song "Great White Buffalo," which actually has what would be called today an environmental message, and yet is also further to the right in its beliefs than I bet even that held by the audience, seeing all who came to this shore as interlopers. It's all about how the buffalo co-existed with Indians for generations, who only killed the buffalo for food and "skins for a roof. The Indians only took what they needed "...and the buffalo were the proof."
The white people, upon arriving these shores, proved more problematic. As Ted sang...
But then came the white man With his thick and empty head He couldn't see past the billfold He wanted all the buffalo dead It was sad It was sad [rips out a gnarly solo]
Also, another thing I don’t get about Nugent's anti-country stature is that his (presumably) Republican audience are very pro-country music. So why piss off the only demographic still in his corner?
One of the things that stood out in the show was how well Nugent is keeping it together. Can you believe this fool just turned 75? He has better posture than Neil Young. The band was a bare 3-piece ensemble, with Nugent doing all the solos and damn near most of the vocals as well. He carried the show effortlessly the entire time, while most of his peers these days rely on younger musicians for the difficult parts. That alone, to me, is more worth celebrating than any shared ideological interests.
He's a true rocker, as my friend Steve put it.
He plays the fool on stage, but he was born into the assembly-line discipline of the Detroit music scene in the early 1970s. Hard to believe now, but Detroit was the epicenter of rock n roll then, a proto-punk hotbed with tougher beats than New York, San Francisco, L.A., and arguably even London at the time. (I once spied a 1970 Detroit festival poster with a line-up of bands so impressive I’d pay money to see the bill today, including Nugent’s first psychedelic band The Amboy Dukes, and also Iggy & The Stooges, Bob Seger System, Alice Cooper, the MC5, and Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels – Detroit luminaries all. (And doesn’t even cover what was happening at Motown at the time).
Today, Iggy is revered everywhere (even France!) as a godfather of punk. Alice is leading a band not only with the Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry but even with aging Hollywood star Johnny Depp. How cool is that? Even Bob Seger, not doing much today, is no doubt splashing around in a swimming pool of money thanks to his regular rotation on classic rock radio.
But where is Nugent? This is Nugent’s farewell tour and he’s playing casinos in the ancillary market? It was sad, it was sad.
Nugent emerged as a solo act right in the mid-1970s at a pivotal time, when the kids were getting bored with the fancy time signatures of progressive rock, and wanted instead to hear some loud simple blue-based boogie guitar rock, of which Nugent was more than capable.
Nugent played loud and fast and it sounded great when tooling down the highway at 110 mph, or if your veins were flush with those Dixie Crystals (or both). Nugent also knew how to build up rock n roll guitar solos, giving them velocity and bite, creating a work that has yet to be surpassed.
But that was then. Let’s be honest Ted, rock n roll won’t take you back now. U2 or Coldplay won’t be calling about that opening slot. When a movie music director needs some 1970s rock for a soundtrack, they’ll turn to Aerosmith or Fleetwood Mac, not to the hopelessly un-PC songs like ” Free For All” (“suck it!”) however jamming they may be.
Jason Aldean or Toby Keith,or whoever the Bro Country star is this week, could use the extra credibility. The country music community, I’m sure, would gladly take Ted in, even give his career a new bump.
Sure he doesn’t play country music, but Bo Diddley rarely played the blues. But Bo was still part of the Chicago blues community, just like Nug belongs in the country music community, even though he remains a pure rocker.
To dpo this, all he would need to do is think outside the established categories a bit, and maybe admit something larger at work is happening here. And instead of a touring last one time, he could bring his music to an entire new generation of fans, and bring in those fat Bob Seger dollars.