review and photos by Daniel Maher, special to The City Wire
“The Motor City Madman,” “The Nuge,” “Uncle Ted,” whatever handle you wish to attribute to him, the singular experience that is Ted Nugent, filled the Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) at the Washington County Fair Grounds Sunday evening.
The fact that Nugent’s current tour — The Great White Buffalo 2012 — takes its name from a song “Great White Buffalo” that was first released in 1974 is a testament to his longevity and his devoted fan base, and a clue for the uninitiated to understand the great enigmatic polemic of Ted Nugent’s concerts.
Nugent borrows from North American Indian imagery to communicate with his audience. Just as the Ghost Dance ritual was believed to have the power to lead the Plains Indians out of their dire circumstances in the late 19th century, so too, Nugent declares, will the Great White Buffalo lead us out of our dire economic-political straights we find ourselves in: There's hope for tomorrow/we're workin' on today/Well, it happened long time ago/in the new magic land/The Indian and the buffalo/they existed hand in hand.”
He then links this image to the present by offering a new figure to follow: “With the Great White Buffalo/they gonna make a final stand/The Great White Buffalo/comin' around to make a final stand/Well, look out here he comes/The great white buffalo, baby/The Great White Buffalo.”
Nugent performed this song as his encore in a full Indian feather head-dress.
“You and me are the great white buffalo, we are the spirit of the buffalo” he told the crowd. “I feel the spirit of the buffalo inside of me and we are going to take back the White House this fall.”
Throughout the concert Nugent projected a mythic image of his imagined America. On two separate occasions he told the crowd: “You can’t do this in France, baby. You can only play this kind of music if you’ve got freedom, baby.”
The final act on stage was Nugent and all the members of his band donning WWII G.I. helmets and re-enacting the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.
Nugent is fraught with hyperbole that he bends and fires at will just as he does his bow and arrow: one minute he says such racially charged things as “My name is James Brown and I’m from Botswana” and “I was born a poor black child” then in the next minute he is paying tribute to Bo Diddley, James Brown, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Motown and to “soul music.”
This self-proclaimed defender of conservative family values went on to dedicate his “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” as a “love song for all the girls” in which he says: Wang dang, what a sweet poontang/A shakin' my thang as a rang-a-dang-dang in the bell/Down on the street you know she can't be beat/She's so sweet when she yanks on my meat/What the hell.
The barely veiled innuendo continued in “Cat Scratch Fever.”
Concertgoers who tried to reconcile the vacillating value system of Nugent left with a serious case of whip-lash. Those who embraced Ted Nugent as a modern ideologue-shaman went into the night as a mass of frenetic energy yelling “America” ready for action and with fervor for all things Nugent and American.