Live Review: Ted Nugent in New Haven, CT
Motor City Madman Ted Nugent roared into New Haven with his extreme, high-volume rock and roll, as well as plenty of harsh words directed at protesters who picketed as fans queued up for a sold-out Tuesday night (8/6) appearance at Toad's Place.
News of the the veteran rocker's show may have remained limited to his aging ranks of followers and reality-TV devotees if it wasn't for a throng of several dozen city and area residents who took issue with Nugent's recent comments regarding the Trayvon Martin verdict.
Once the news of planned protests erupted, news outlets from Connecticut and far beyond began covering the controversy.
According to an Associated Press report, several thousand had petitioned the Connecticut nightclub to cancel Nugent's show after he referred to Trayvon Martin as a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe." But club operators responded saying Nugent's booking was strictly a business decision, and there were no plans to cancel.
Nugent made the remark last month in an op-ed praising the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Florida teen's shooting death. Nugent castigated President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and everyone else who "refus[ed] to admit that the 17-year-old dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe Trayvon Martin was at all responsible for his bad decisions and standard modus operandi of always taking the violent route."
While those and other incendiary comments from Nugent over the years certainly mobilized a diverse group to tote placards and chant just a few feet from ticket holders clamoring to get into the packed nightclub, it appears those fans were much more interested in hearing foot-stomping classic rock than being unwitting players in a national political debate on a Florida court case.
In fact, New Haven's classic rock radio station WPLR got more than 200 posts within hours of polling listeners about cancelling the show on the station's Facebook page, virtually everyone enthusiastically calling for the "Nuge" to go on.
And boy, did he go on.
Nugent hit the Toad's stage about 9:45 pm with earth-shattering power chords, opening with "Gonzo." Trading vocals throughout his 90-minute set with Detroit guitarist and longtime backing player Derek St. Holmes, Nugent kept everyone pumped with a sampling from his nearly three dozen albums, sticking primarily to popular tracks like "Wango Tango," "Turn It Up," "Stormtroopin'" and "Fred Bear."
The frontman, donning his trademark cami-patterned "WhackMaster" hat, gave fellow Detroiter St. Holmes props for career contributions to their hometown music scene before inviting him to perform his own tune, "Hey Baby."
But it was only a couple of songs into his set before Nugent began referring to the controversy that had since dissipated out in front of the club.
"I knew I was special, but I didn't know I was this special," Nugent proclaimed before launching into "What the Doctor Ordered."
He also proclaimed to be among the most reverent of his "black heroes," ticking off a half-dozen names of great Detroit players and other African American musicians he either played with or idolized over the past 50 years.
He paid tribute to one of those players, Willie Dixon, ripping into a soulful version of "I Can't Quit You Baby."
Nugent also touted his backing musicians as being "the best soul band in the business" before he taunted protesters saying, "Be sure to invite those mother****ers outside to come in and see what soul is all about."
A short time later he launched into another, more profanity-laced rant, again aimed at opponents who targeted Nugent's freedom of speech.
At one point Nugent proclaimed, "I'm drunk on freedom, and stoned on liberty," before switching gears introducing one of his fan favorites, "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang," as a "sweet love song."
As Nugent's set wound down, he pulled out double-barrel crowd pleasers "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Stranglehold," both played with a level of energy harkening back to the days of massive coliseum shows.
He returned for an epic encore of "Great White Buffalo," sending the hundreds of rabid fans home with sore eardrums and assurances that a few protesters here and there would not deter Ted Nugent from saying or playing whatever Ted Nugent wants, whenever the mood strikes him.