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Saturday, August 18, 2007
"You can't get this in France!"
How did I wind up at a Ted Nugent concert at the Oregon Garden? Let me pose a better question: how did Ted Nugent wind up at a concert at the Oregon Garden? While the man is nearly 60, he hardly appeals to the gray-haired/church social crowd that frequents the place.
On Thursday night myself, a colleague and a few thousand locals poured into the garden's amphitheater for 105 minutes of the Motor City Madman's special brand of "soul rock." It's hard to believe that a man singing recently penned odes to his "love grenade" and his desire to "eat girl scout cookies" isn't doing so at a level of irony rivaling a hundred Tenacious Ds. Nonetheless, after watching him wail on an American flag guitar between political diatribes and and running around the stage with machine guns, and despite the over-the-top absurdity of his act, I'm still convinced that:
1: Ted Nugent is completely sincere.
2: Ted Nugent is completely insane.
Some excerpts from the show:
Nugent on politics: "You know this Barrack Obama guy? Ain't he a piece of shit? And Hillary Clinton is a whore. She's a whore! She can suck on these!" At this point he broke out two machine guns and held them over his head. The crowd up front went wild.
Nugent on his own heritage: "I was born a small black child in Memphis." Sure, it's a reference to a Steve Martin movie but he repeated it numerous times with complete conviction before launching into the world's least funky cover of "Soul Man" (sans horn section). During the show he also announced: "I'm James Brown! James Brown...WITH MACHINE GUNS!" Yes, I believe Ted Nugent really thinks he's Soul Brother # 1 reincarnated in the body of a guy who once made his living running around in a loin cloth ala Tarzan. Maybe it's sorta like Spock at the end of Wraith of Kahn. James Brown's soul could very well be stuck in Ted Nugent's body. There's a freaky thought.
Nugent on children: "I'd start a guns for kiddies program if they'd let me. Tonight, every kid in the audience would get a free machine gun!"
Nugent on peace and love: "I believe in peace and love, specifically a love of superior firepower!" The title of his new album? Love Grenade because "after all, who doesn't love grenades?"
Nugent on the NW: "I love my brothers and sisters in Ory-gone! You've all got good hunting out here!"
Nugent on world politics: "Our brave fighting men are killing assholes around the world. I'm all for killing assholes!" During one guitar solo: "Wooooo! You can't get this in France!"
Yes, I paid good money to get in and, yes, my liberal/Portland/commie pinko/plastic bottle and newspaper recycling conscience is still nagging me days later.
There was also Nugent's choice of a backdrop. Behind the drum set a row of speakers were covered in camo nets. At least a dozen machine guns ranging from M16s to Uzis were on stage, hung next to objects like a cow skull, a wolf fur and an Native American headdress. The crowd's response to all of this? 50% bewilderment, 50% adoration.
A good section of the audience consisted of bikers, fratboys and "sons of the soil," a few dressed in construction helmets with deer horns attached to the sides. I witnessed two near fights, one between a group of teenagers and two middle-aged men over politics, another between a father with three kids and a guy who looked like he was all cranked up on the meth and the alcohol and the wacky-tabbacy. A guy dressed in biker gear I encountered later on went off on a loud rant about Iraq, acting as if he was looking to duke-it-out with anyone who dared disagree with him (strangely enough, he was as staunch opponent of the war, at one point growling, "I'm 57 years old and I don't want my son to die in that bullshit"). Also in a attendance: a man that looked and dressed like Walter from The Big Lebowski. He was too busy smooching with his lady love to cause any trouble though.
Despite some incidents on the fringes, everyone was more interested in hooting and hollering along with "Uncle Ted" than flinging fists. They also kindly turned a blind eye to my Birkenstocks and a few hipster sightseers wandering through the crowd. Nugent closed the set with an amazing "Cat Scratch Fever" before returning to the stage in a headdress for a epic song about "hunting the great, white buffalo." At the climax, he broke out a bow and arrow, lit the arrow on fire and shot a white guitar.
Politics and mental illness aside, there's no getting around the fact that Ted Nugent is a amazing guitar player and still a great showman. Shooting a guitar with a flaming bow and arrow? Bad. Ass. I really wish I had brought along a camera. Instead, I had to make do with the one in my phone, which randomly produces results ranging from 600 x 400 pixel photos to blurry, stamp-sized crapulence. Its work ethic and ethos are as much a mystery to me as Unky Ted's.