Fans have learned to expect big entrances from Ted Nugent.

For years now, he and his band have started every show with a bombastic, Jimi Hendrix-inspired instrumental version of "The Star-Spangled Banner," punctuated with several "freedom!" cries.

But Wednesday night at the Stark County Fairgrounds, Nugent instead silently strutted to the center of the stage, surveyed the crowd for a second, let out a few soft, maniacal chuckles and then launched right into his traditional set closer, "Stranglehold."

It was an invigorating change of pace, and one that put the focus immediately and squarely on his guitar playing, which remains a marvelous blend of spontaneity and precision.

"I am dangerously intoxicated, stoned, drunk, out-of-body insane with my craving to unleash my beloved songs each night," Nugent tells UCR. "I love them all so much it hurts. 'Stranglehold' developed as the sonic contact with my fellow music lovers in the audience every night back in the '60s, throughout the '70s and rose above the flames in the studio that magic day in 1974 to become the ultimate freedom shit-kicker battle song. We used to open with it in free-form back then and my instincts were pure to create the energized spirit as the opening song this year again. And the motherfucker works perfectly!"

The rest of the evening found Nugent pulling off his usual but admirable magic trick, playing all the expected songs while keeping everything sounding fresh, exciting and borderline out of control. Midway through a blistering "Motor City Madhouse," he turned to bassist Greg Smith and said, "Don't you just love this riff?" They then went shoulder to shoulder and repeated it maybe 10 more times before continuing to the next section.

That same sense of excitement and enthusiasm was on display all night -- as was the musical telepathy among Nugent, Smith and drummer Jason Hartless. Nugent even sported a delighted "Can you believe I can do this?" look on his face during his many solos.

One of the shows highlights came during "Stranglehold," when a flock of geese buzzed low and directly over the stage just seconds before Nugent, a longtime hunter, made his entrance. "What the hell, huh?" he commented during the song's first instrumental section, lamenting that he wasn't prepped for the sudden opportunity. "I'd have killed four of them geese!"

Two concerts remain on the Music Made Me Do It Again! tour: tonight in Columbus, Ohio, and tomorrow in his old hometown of Detroit (he lives in Crawford, Texas, now). After that, he's off the road for a while. So, geese better beware. You can find show information and tickets at Nugent's website.

Brown Photography
Brown Photography

 

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