Double? Live? Gonzo? Intrepid Detroit trooper goes into overdrive and drives Penn’s Peak wild.
No matter what you think of The Nuge, you can’t deny he has the guts and is always ready to spill ’em. Much more honest than many of those who denies him the right to do what he wants to do, the belligerent veteran is much more of a role model than those who despise this avuncular figure bent on the anti-drug rhetoric. His perennial popularity – the fact that the leftist hypocrites tend to forget – is based on his music, which is what he does best. If the artist’s hunting ways are for his own pleasure, Nugent’s songs are for the world. Not for nothing “Ultralive Ballisticrock” starts with the precious chestnut “Free For All” and has the punters join in on the joyful chorus of “I Still Believe” which Uncle Ted offered as a free download for all to share the American spirit.
“Spirit” is the word which crops up all too often on the 2CD-and-video document of his 2011’s performance that sees The Nuge deliver intricate, if deceptively effortless, solos and go on sincere rants about the state of the nation, yet the audience as eagerly flips the bird to the government as they engage in their hero’s sexy dance during the frenetic “Wango Tango” interlude where the 63-year-old welcomes a trio of cheerleaders on the stage and throws a “Spirit Of The Wild” quote in to pick it up later. Still, his three compadres – Derek St. Holmes who trades guitar and vocal duties with the leader, bassist Greg Smith and drummer Mick Brown – elicit more shouts of delight from spectators than the gals, although Ted remains the focal point throughout. An alumnus of Detroit school of shabby, though nuclear, brilliance, he plays a punky clown laying the “no shit” groove and convincing everyone that each song is the most important in his life but, of course, the riff-fest of “Cat Scratch Fever” and the bluesy “Hey Baby” go down in a more febrile fashion if compared than newish, heavier cuts “Raw Dogs & War Hogs” and “Fred Bear” despite their irresistible catchiness.
Ted proclaims his old material as Motown classics, and “Motorcity Madhouse”of “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” provide a frantically funky link between sweet soul and MC5’s theatrical aggression, while Smith rumbles on “Need You Bad” to the Uncle’s hot licks. The sound may be rough here, what with instrumental front and Nugent packing his ragged voice into the headset mic in order to not break out of the moment – his self-characteristic as “mood-driven” is spot-on – yet the attitude in the air gets perfectly summed up in “Just What the Doctor Ordered” and whipped up by the Uncle’s constant expletives-ridden remarks, mantra-like repetitive for he’s a true believer. It’s tight and sharp, never more so than when Ted puts his thumb under the strings on the epic “Stranglehold” for sustain and the demonstration of his grip of the public, and scratch ’em in picturesque unison with St. Holmes, and inflammatory – literally so as the veteran sends the burning arrow into the “Great White Buffalo” guitar for a grand finale.
“The whole world sucks but America sucks less,” declares The Nuge, namechecking his Native America heroes with the same reverence as his rock ‘n’ roll idols, and that’s a patriotic, rather than chauvinistic, statement, and there’s pride, not vanity, in the band raising a flag in the end, the Iwo Jima way. With The Uncle in such a melodious action, America is a good place, indeed.