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Ted Nugent Plays the Big Bad Bear Alongside Styx, REO Speedwagon in Toledo

Ted Nugent
Ted Nugent / Facebook / Brown Photography

Ted Nugent, Styx and REO Speedwagon retold the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears Sunday night (April 21) in Toledo, Ohio — each striking a different balance between well-rehearsed craft and spontaneity.

First up was REO Speedwagon, who rewarded the surprisingly large percentage of fans who showed up right on time with a extremely professional and streamlined 10-song set featuring ‘Take It on the Run,’ ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling’ and a closing one-two punch of ‘Keep on Loving You’ and ‘Riding the Storm Out.’

Next up was Styx, who for the most part maintained the tightness and polish of their predecessors on the bill… except for the highly unique antics of keyboardist Lawrence Gowan. For those who have never seen him before (and that was us prior to this show), Gowan employs a rotating keyboard on stage. Interesting, but not a game-changer, right?

Wrong! See, this allowed him to spend much of the early part of the show dancing in circles, or turning around and thrusting his ass directly at the crowd, often in a position similar to that one would use to ride a horse, or perhaps poop in the woods. Or he’d play while seemingly sitting on the keyboard, or even standing on the wrong side of it. If you ever wondered what a cross between Paul Stanley and Dana Carvey’s ‘SNL’ impersonation of George Michael would look like, well, now you can find out.

As you can tell, the unusual nature of this on-stage approach distracted us a bit from the music at first. But Gowan played and sang all his parts very well, as did Tommy Shaw and the rest of the band — particularly on ‘Fooling Yourself’ and an epic ‘Come Sail Away’ — and his call and response work with the crowd was met with hearty enthusiasm.

The only thing missing from the slightly predictable night (and granted, some of that is probably due to the condensed set times required by this triple bill) was a sense of recklessness and danger, and luckily the Motor City Madman was up next to do what he does best: overcompensate.

Nugent and his backing three-piece band came storming out of the gates playing ‘Wango Tango’ too loud and too fast — in other words, just right. Within minutes he was screaming about how he “likes the butt propped up,” and a noticeable, presumably more polite portion of the crowd began scurrying for the door. Good, we didn’t need ‘em anyway.

Now, granted, every musician or band who’s been performing together as long as these three groups has their go-to moves, must-play songs and bag of tricks. But Nugent’s show was the only one that crackled with an uncertain energy — with little changes in solos, arrangements and of course, his non-stop and always highly entertaining between-song chatter making you wonder what was going to happen next, happy you made the trip and eager to see him do it all again next time.

Next: Top 10 Ted Nugent Songs

Watch Ted Nugent Perform ‘Stranglehold’ in Toledo

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