Say what you will about his very vocal conservative, pro-gun politics, but Ted Nugent’s music is nearly as American as the Fourth of July. The Motor City Madman took to the stage at the Chumash Casino last Friday to wow fans with powerful guitar riffs, talented musicianship, and no small amount of outspoken political commentary. At times parading an AR-15 carbine, or a stars and stripes-bedecked bow on stage, Nugent peppered his between-song downtime with statements about Senator Diane Feinstein’s likeness to a female dog — a move which elicited loud cheers from the audience — and encouraging words about using silenced .22 caliber rifles to plink those pesky coyotes that are digging through urban dumpsters all over Southern California. Despite some unappreciative shouts when he talked for too long between numbers, the packed house — many of whom were clad in woodland camouflage garments and cowboy hats — was largely stoked on Nugent’s musical energy.
From old favorites like “Stranglehold” and “Love Grenade” to newer numbers like “Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead,” the musical talent of Nugent’s band shone through any political message the lyrics might have had to offer. Long known for his love of the guitar, Nugent had no shortage of axe swaps as he belted out solo after impassioned solo. At times, his face contorted and the whites of his eyes showed in concert with his fingers’ furious fret diddling. Never ones to forget their roots, the band played a few Motown songs in their own style, taking the opportunity to showcase each player individually. An enthusiastic celebration of the hunting lifestyle, including videos of Nugent bow hunting numerous different types of animals, served as backdrop for many of his songs. “Back in Texas, we ain’t got a mountain lion problem; the mountain lions got a Ted problem,” he said amidst supportive hoots.
The Nuge ended the show with an encore rendition of “Great White Buffalo.” Clad in a full Indian headdress, Nugent played the song on a large, white guitar, which was “sacrificed” at the end when he shot a flaming arrow into it — a gesture much appreciated by the audience, which left the valet staff no shortage of big trucks to retrieve from the parking garage when all was said and done.