Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ted Nugent Live at the Iridium Jazz Club

(image taken from without permission)

I guess it’s fair to say I’m a bit of a concert purist. You may have taken that away from my last Minus the Bear piece. Venue, sound, audience, setlist and the whole experience are all factors to me. They make a magnificent blend of rock excellence.

That’s why I don’t like certain venues. I usually don’t like festivals, because you don’t get the full audience of one band as well as the buzzkill of a shorter set. I will sometimes avoid seeing bands if I believe they’re on the decline as it might lower my perception and fanship of their previous music. When I saw Tom Petty, he was too high to play the harmonica. It took me about five years to get over it enough to listen to him again. Snap perceptions are at a premium when the curtain goes up.

Ted Nugent is a dish best served outdoors. I normally don’t think outdoor concerts have the best sound, but Nugent rolls to town with enough amps and sound equipment to kill a Yak in Japan. Believe you me, he’ll be pumped when happens! The Nuge needs a big stage, a loud drunken audience of people that have been coming to his shows since the 70’s (and still think it’s the 70’s mind you) and the sweet scent of the great outdoors in the summertime. The man cannot be quarantined into a little indoor venue with puny little amplifiers and table seating.

Or can he? How about a jazz club in Manhattan? Can you just plug the outlandish Ted Nugent in with a legendary group of blues/jazz/R&B band as part of a tribute spectacle for Les Paul and expect everything to turn out normal? This ought to be interesting…

I want to unroll this out like a summertime concert blanket in three sections.

Pros: I’ve never paid more than 20 bucks to see Ted. In fact, I’ve seen him for free, seven bucks, 15 bucks and 19 or so bucks. The ticket at the Iridium Jazz Club in Times Square was more than all of that. What you’re looking for here is a unique experience. That was delivered.

One of my favorite things the Foo Fighters ever recorded was witnessed at the 2004 Grammy’s. They came out and played “Times Like These” with a jazz pianist. It was awesome, because they were able to string together both the acoustic and rock versions of the song into one budding explosion of rock awesomeness…PLUS…a jazz piano. See the video here! (not the best sound quality)

Ted was able to do similar here. I was worried about him playing his songs with a band that he’s never played with before (The Les Paul Trio). He has such a bond with his band and everything they (the “Motor City Funk Brothers”) do is a structure leading to the next jam. You really feel like they get better every night they are on tour as they continue to add to the recipe. Believe you me, the Nuge likes to BBQ.

Seeing “Stranglehold” with a jazz piano was really something to cherish. The Les Paul Trio is a pretty talented band and even though they didn’t look totally comfortable playing with Uncle Ted, they got through it. It’s not like he made them play “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,” requiring those old dudes to chime in with backing vocals to “she looks so sweet when she gobbles my meat.”

The other cool thing is you could tell Ted was trying to be affable. He only really played three original Ted songs and the rest were basic jams that any blues player could easily plug into, however, not many can do it on the level of the Les Paul Trio. All of that marinated with that certain Detroit soul Ted brings to every performance really makes for something special.

Seeing Ted play blues numbers like “Honky Tonk”, “Red House” and “Johnny B. Goode" was unique and special to me. I just love the concept of jamming when someone points at another person to solo. Isn’t that what music is supposed to be about? Raw, unbridled enthusiasm and joy? Ted sets the pace in those qualities. It means a lot to me to see a musician (seemingly) enjoy what they are doing. It makes me enjoy more what I’m seeing.

See what I’m talking about in this ("Johnny B. Goode") video from the show. The sound quality is primo! (My favorite part is minutes 2 to 3)

Cons: It was a little awkward. The Les Paul Trio didn’t seem to know totally what to do with Ted’s banter and stage presence (even if he watered it down due to time and place). The venue was very small which you think would be an advantage in sound quality. It wasn’t. Ted delivered some blue ribbon Grade A quality guitar playing, but it just didn’t sound like Ted without all the amplifiers. You get to know how good someone is when they are playing in such a small setting and you certainly felt Ted had the “stuff”, but it all just felt a bit awkward for lack of a better word.

Also, when you play a jazz club like Iridium, one usually ends up playing two sets. It’s all about the green, and the consequence was instead of getting two hours of loud and proud American rock, we were treated to a set of just over an hour. It’s fine. It’s just less for more and that’s never an equation I’m comfortable to boast about.

Quick Tangent: Never go to the Iridium Jazz club. It fucking sucks!!! It took them over two hours to get the first crowd out and the new crowd in. Everyone was pretty hostile overall—true NYC experience I guess. Everything is so crowded and uncomfortable. Obviously, you’re looking at overpriced drinks and food, but that’s a given. I’ll throw it in there anyway for SPITE. It all just left a horrible taste in my mouth. I just cannot fathom mainly…how it took so long to get everyone in and out. It had a complete aura of chaos and disorganization. Avoid at all costs!

It’s funny, there was this guy that kept throwing ice cubes and acting like an imbecile the entire show. He would get up to talk to his friend who was sitting right in front of me. All the while, he was swinging his arms and elbows like he was “Skankin’ By Numbers” in the classic Ska era. For a moment I thought I saw black and white tile on the floors. He almost elbowed me a couple of times and I looked at the waitress with discontent to have her come up to me and apologize saying, “there’s nothing I can do, he’s the owner.” Well, that explains it all doesn’t it.

Question: Ted is playing three shows in NJ (fairly easy to get to, hour on a train, we take beer, it will rock!) this summer with his original lead singer Derek St. Holmes. Is anyone in!?!?!?!

Star Spangled Banner
Route 66
Johnny B. Goode
Red House
Honky Tonk
Cat Scratch Fever



  2. This summer baby!!! I can't wait. St. Holmes has more soul in his voice than he ever has. He sounds great. It's going to rock all summer long.