Ted Nugent, Styx and REO Speedwagon - Verizon Theater - May 7, 2012
Eric Sauseda Ted Nugent at last week's NRA convention in Houston.
Here's the thing about Ted Nugent -- it doesn't matter what you think about him. Yeah, his insane political statements are moronic at best, but his shtick is so thoroughly thought out that he manages to be a punchline and ideologue and a hero, to some all at the same time. This is brilliant. He's built and kept a fanbase long after he was remotely relevant as a musician.
The point being this: Despite his placement on last night's bill, it was the Nuge who had the largest fanbase and Q rating at Verizon theater, not Styx, or REO Speedwagon, who are currently known for having a song used as a punchline in a South Park episode 15 years ago and the question "Can you name an REO Speedwagon song?"
This was driven home by the couple who stood next to me in matching Nugent concert shirts that read "Cocked, locked and ready to rock" while the matching camo otter boxes clipped to their belts drove home where they stood on the current national debate. Despite the rain of fist pumps the other bands received, Nuge ruled the night and he did so because of his media savviness.
This is not to dismiss what REO and Styx brought to the affair. Black shirts ruled the concourse when I made my way through, and the merch table was seeing heavy sales on all three acts' shirts. Inside, each band took to the stage and spent much of their time playing to the crowd. Solos were taken without worry, and each side of the stage was given the opportunity reach up and attempt to touch the rock legend playing to them. The songs were long, the performers indulgent, the fans captivated.
During REO's performance each song had its title flash on the back screen as it was launched into these small signals helping the crowd play along. During Styx, each song was lead by a a bit of stage banter. The crowd was happy to take it in as they eagerly sang along to the songs they recognized and faked it to the ones they didn't.
I spent much of my time surrounded by people shockingly close to my own age adorned in blue button-up shirts and sipping from $7 aluminum cans of Bud Light while chatting about work and asking "Who is this?" much to the chagrin of the diehards who sported black tour shirts from a variety of bands whose link to the acts on stage were tied to the decade of their success.
These older people weren't at the show to socialize, they were there for the music -- their music. As the night went on and the booze flowed freely the fans sang louder and the fists never left the air as the fans were determined to have a good time. In the end, you realize that why all this nostalgia has sort of an air of sadness to it -- after all these people are giving themselves one night, and one night only to live like they once did. It's still better than spending the day surfing through the radio hoping for a song to hit and organically construct nostalgic feelings you so crave; sometimes you need that feeling mass-produced and easily available like it was in the Verizon Theater last night, even if it's just for a second.
Notes from my notebook/Twitter:
-It should be noted that this whole event was put on by KZPS-FM 92.5 and was known as Bo & Jim's Jamboree 2! I have no idea who Bo or Jim are.
-Given the connection of classic acts with fairs, this was the weirdest state fair I had ever been to.
-Remember back in the day when you used to get high and throw a bunch of random shit on Winamp and then zone out while watching the visualizer? That's exactly what REO Speedwagon is like.
-The guy who is not Dennis DeYoung and plays keys and sings in Styx really likes to get down on his turning wheel of death keyboard, it was almost pornographic at times.
-Shout out to the ladies selling the test tube shots and the drunk guy who told a young lady "Listen, I know women and I'm a ladies man."