For the occasions, he spent the warm summer evening in Bonner Springs, at the Providence Medical Center Amphitheater in front of a large crowd whose attendance was swelled by a widespread ticket giveaway. At the box offices, fans were welcome to take as many as they wanted from a pile of lawn tickets and then, if they so chose, upgrade each inside for $10 cash. The plan worked. By the time Nugent and his two-piece band took the stage, the crowd looked to be close to 10,000.
They got the usual Nugent performance: a rabble-rousing set of muscle-bound power-trio rock songs that tapped into his Detroit-rock roots and showcased his flashy gymnastics on lead guitar.
He and his band -- bassist Greg Smith and drummer Jason Hartless, both Motown natives – performed in front of an enormous American flag. They opened with an instrumental version of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” then tore into a cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go.”
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From there, the set list visited most of Nugent’s rock classics, starting with “Gonzo,” “Free-for-All” and “Dog Eat Dog.” During “Need You Bad,” a track from his 1978 album “Weekend Warriors,” he turned lead vocals over to Hartless.
Nugent is a notorious provocateur, one who has attracted some infamous attention for his profane insults and bald-face threats to his political enemies. In June, however, after the shootings of Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise and others at a baseball practice in Virginia, Nugent told a radio station that his wife had convinced him to stop with the “harsh terms” and “I encourage my friends/enemies on the left and in the Democrat and liberal world that we have to be civil to each other.”
He kept his word for most of the show. Much of his carnival-barker-style rhetoric and sloganeering touted freedom, hunting, barbecue and his support for the military. He also assured the crowd several times that like every other show, he was treating this one as “the most important show of my life.”
However, before the salacious “Wang Dang” song, he took an odd swipe at country music: “I was going to play a country song but I still have a (penis) so I can’t do that.” And before “Dog Eat Dog,” he praised the president and then told members of the military he was sorry they’d had to serve eight years under his predecessor, a commander-in-chief who was an “absolute piece of s***. … And if that offends you, you’re a piece of s***.” So much for civility.
He closed with two of his heaviest and best-known rock anthems: “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Stranglehold.” For his encore, he hauled out “The Great White Buffalo,” which he appended with a few measures of “Don’t Tread On Me” and “Spirit of the Wild” before reprising a bit of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Ultimately, this Ted Nugent show was like most of the 6,000-plus that preceded it: rife with rock riffs and unvarnished rhetoric.
The Star-Spangled Banner (instrumental); Baby Please Don’t Go; Gonzo; Paralyzed; Free-for-All; Good Friends and a Bottle of Wine; Wang Dang; Need You Bad; Dog Eat Dog; Fred Bear; Cat Scratch Fever; Stranglehold; The Great White Buffalo.