June 21, 2003
Arena At Gwinnett Center - Duluth, GA


Ted Nugent:

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This concert was all about rock stars with such colorful personalities they might as well have been cartoon characters. The atmosphere was thick with air guitars, pot and admiration for these guitar heroes of the working man. The first night of summer began with the unrelenting guitar assault of Ted Nugent, who has apparently neglected to age or modernize in the past 20 years. His authentic 80s metal band was loud, heavy and sounded much fuller than a three-piece. These guys were energetic, especially the drummer, who was almost inhumanly so. The Nuge performed one blistering solo on his knees after another.  Before long it felt like getting kicked in the head…but the crowd couldn’t get enough!

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Love him or hate him, Nugent’s unbridled enthusiasm and motor mouth antics are worth witnessing and trying to understand. There’s a large portion of America that shares Nuge’s typically unfettered, almost blind patriotism. “We’re celebrating the victory in Iraq” he proclaimed before “Wango Tango” and bragged, “There ain’t no such thing as a French cowboy!” He should tour with the USO. “I love when Americans kill assholes!” he added before playing “Raw Dogs, War Hogs.” The relatively new song “Kiss My Ass” was dedicated to fellow Americans the Dixie Chicks and also mentioned a not so surprising disdain for Jesse Jackson and Janet Reno. At one point, the Motor City Madman donned a bow and arrow, aiming across the stage. A Saddam Hussein life-sized cutout dangled in effigy. The mock dictator’s reign was ended by a shot from Nugent…directly in the heart. Favorites “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Stranglehold” stirred the crowd into a frenzy .The closing cover of the national anthem was typically overstated. As he left the stage, he raised an assault rifle in one hand and a guitar in the other. With an unapologetic and devilish smile, he yelled, “This is my American dream!”

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ZZ Top:

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ZZ Top was less intense and more laid back, adding variety to the night. Another three piece band that didn’t sound empty, they entered in matching ponchos and 20-gallon sequined hats to “Gimme All Your Lovin.” To the delight of the crowd, the two front men employed more choreography than Christina and Justin combined. Bobbing and spinning in unison underlined their impressively confident playing.

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To accentuate their badass persona, they had their roadies remove their ponchos and hats for them and later lit their cigarettes so that they could continue playing without interruption.

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They had plenty of opportunities to show off their chops. “Rough Boy,” “the pretty one” with melodic tones, was followed by flashy axe work on “Cheap Sunglasses” with Billy Gibbons’ guitar flipped over and rubbed on his legs in lieu of picking. The new track “Buck Naked” went over well, perhaps because “it don’t need no explanation.”  “Catfish Blues” had real bite to the guitar, and musically, “Jesus Just Left Chicago” lit sparks in the air. “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” featured tasteful and heartfelt playing with the slow parts made even slower for effect.

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At this point, two giant figures emerged from the wings. Until now they had been merely scenery in their Day of the Dead getups. “The Mescalero Brothers” staggered forward to pour the band tequila. Now the hits came quickly. The audience went wild for “Sharp Dressed Man.” During “Legs,” ZZ Top played the fuzzy white guitars straight from the video. Too bad they didn’t drive out in that ’34 Ford! Gibbons’ showed off a one-handed guitar technique while the crowd danced for “La Grange.” The night ended in dry ice and a sing along as bassist Dusty Hill belted out “Tush.” People were still picking imaginary guitars as they left the arena. This is real Americana…loud, abrasive, reckless and fun-minded.

 Amanda Stahl/concertshots.com

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