As the blazing sun still shines down on Detroit's DTE Energy Music Theatre, seven airmen and women from the local Air National Guard unit stand at attention on the stage in front of a giant "Uncle Ted Wants You" themed banner that fittingly drapes the back of the stage. A few seconds later, the road crew wheel out an eight-foot tall, patriotically-decorated, cake to help celebrate the special occasion.
There are two special occasions in play here this night, the first being that it was Independence Day, 2008, and the second being that it marked Ted Nugent's 6,000th concert, after 40-plus years performing professionally! Soak that one in for a minute boys and girls. That averages to about 140 shows per year since he first started touring regularly with The Amboy Dukes back in 1967.
As soon as the cake is in place, the Motor City Madman struts out to greet the ecstatic, 20,000-strong, hometown crowd, while he fires off licks on his trademark Gibson Byrdland, hollow-body, electric guitar, and a blaring air-raid siren accompanies the attack. Gentlemen, don't get up to refresh your drinks just yet though, because a sexy, bikini-clad, blonde pops out of the top of the cake to give the hungry crowd their first sugar fix of the night, while Ted simultaneously feeds them some "Star-Spangled Banner" from his guitar.
To help celebrate the occasion, Nugent invited a few old friends and former bandmates to share the stage with him – most notably Derek St. Holmes, who co-wrote and sang lead on a few of Nugent's best albums. Also joining the party was Johnny "Bee" Badanjek, drummer for one of Detroit's most famous '60s rock bands, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, who jammed with Ted on "Jenny Take A Ride." Another nice touch was Ted inviting his guitar teacher from the late '50s, Joe Podorsek, to jam with him on the old blues standard, "Honky Tonk."
Ted's backing band this time around featured "Wild" Mick Brown (formerly of Dokken) on drums, and Greg Smith (Alice Cooper, Rainbow) on bass. Surprisingly, the stage show was relatively subdued, with minimal lighting and no pyrotechnics to speak of. It has more of a club show feel to it than a large amphitheater concert. As long as a big, fat, spotlight shines down on Uncle Teddy at all times though, I guess he'll be pretty happy.
The twenty song setlist was a pretty good one, covering most of the essential Nugent classics like "Cat Scratch Fever," "Free For All," "Dog Eat Dog," and "Stranglehold," while also mixing in some covers and a couple of new songs from his latest album, 2007's Love Grenade.
Greg Smith does a fine job singing the Weekend Warriors anthem, "Need You Bad," and Ted should have let him handle the title track as well. It would have been much sweeter had Ted gotten his other former bandmate, Charlie Huhn, to sing a few of his old songs. The main thing that has kept the few Ted Nugent concerts I have seen this past decades from being less than compelling is his insistence on performing as a trio and handling all of the lead vocals – with that stupid microphone wrapped around his face too.
The difference between the three Derek St. Holmes-led performances of "Hey Baby", "Cat Scratch Fever," and "Stranglehold," were like night and day from the rest of the performances. Not only is Holmes still an awesome singer, but his rhythm guitar playing really helps to flesh out the songs. Although Ted sang lead on most of his biggest hits, I'll be kind and just say that he is a guitarist first and foremost – and still a great one at that.
As with any Nugent concert, you'll have to put up with all of his between-song banter, which still sticks to his go-to subjects of patriotism, the troops, hunting, gun rights, killin', grillin', sex, and just how damn awesome he is. Unless you are a far-left liberal, you'll probably still find him fairly amusing as he bellows things like "Yeah, the troops!;" "Yeah, kill them terrorists!;" and "USA, USA, USA."
But it also gets a little old after like the FIRST time seeing him. Seeing Ted, decked out in full Indian chief head dress, shooting a flaming arrow into his "Great White Buffalo" guitar at the end of that song, however, will just never get old.
My favorite subtle quote of the night from him was after his performance with Joe Podorsek where he goes on to say, "That's where it all came from…and then I started writing love songs," – just before launching into "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang." Classic.
The overall production quality of the DVD was very good. Your three audio choices are DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, as well as Dolby Digital stereo, and I had no major complaints with any of them. The widescreen picture was not the best HD transfer I have ever seen, but it still looked very respectable. I have read several highly critical reviews of the Blu-ray version of this presentation, especially with the 5.1 audio tracks, but I noticed no such problems with this DVD.
For an old geezer, Ted Nugent still performs with an unparalleled level of enthusiasm, and he gives his fans exactly what they come to see – "some of the coolest guitar licks in the world." It's pretty hard to argue with him on that one after just being pummeled by those killer "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Stranglehold" licks.
01. Ted Nugent Intro
02. Star Spangled Banner
03. Motor City Madhouse
04. Wango Tango
05. Free For All
07. Dog Eat Dog
08. Need You Bad
09. Weekend Warrior
10. Love Grenade
11. Honky Tonk (with Joe Podorsek)
12. Wang Dang Sweet Poontang
13. Bo Diddley / Lay With Me
14. Baby Please Don't Go
15. Geronimo And Me
16. Jenny Take A Ride (with Johnny "Bee" Badanjek)
17. Soul Man
18. Hey Baby (with Derek St. Holmes)
19. Cat Scratch Fever (with Derek St. Holmes)
20. Stranglehold (with Derek St. Holmes)
21. Great White Buffalo
22. Fred Bear
Performance – 7/10
Production – 8/10