Ted Nugent sucked harder than a vacuum cleaner
We left the Dallas Aristocrat at 5:30 in the baking afternoon heat with ér indoors bemoaning that it was too early for the two mile journey even though the ticket proclaimed a 6:30 start to the show. As it was, we arrived at six; bought last years programme and made it to our seats in time to learn that there was a surprise on the bill. Ten minutes later Cheap Trick took to the stage as the surprise opener for the evening's festivities. My experience with Cheap Trick was probably the same as many of my countrymen, heard "I want you to want me" on the radio and rushed out to buy "Live at the Budokan" to throw it in the bin within the month.
Maybe age has a bearing but some 25 years later I was pleased to learn of their addition to the line-up for the Arrowfest at Houston and just as pleased to discover that they were here tonight. Kicking off with "Ain't That A Shame", then "Dream Police" they reached "I Want You To Want Me" for only the third number and I was wondering how they would sustain the crowds approval for the rest of the set. But we shouldn't have worried, out came the legendary five-necked guitar and they rocked through another three numbers before ending with "Surrender". A 30-minute set and no encore but they deserved one, rocking the factions of fans here as one and I for one hope that they get a longer show at the Arrowfest!
The Billed opener for this show was Ted Nugent and not having heard much of the man and despite his reputation for having a big mouth we were looking forward to seeing him. I am always suspicious of an artist who sucks up to his audience and on this occasion those suspicions were well founded. This act couldn't suck any harder if he used a vacuum cleaner! I have no objection to loud bands but Nugent cranked up the sound to distortion levels. All that could be heard from this 'power trio' was a loud unmusical clang that might as well have been instrumental; if there were any instruments distinguishable! Between songs Nugent sucked up to Texas with comments about how good the local BBQs were and how good Texas venison tasted. Given that the audience was largely made up of Texas Rednecks here to see Lynyrd Skynyrd, these comments were sure to guarantee roars of approval.
I am told that Nugent has never managed to play a good show in Texas and given the evidence here I can understand why. Ten years ago at the Texfest in Houston he 'flipped off' the crowd after 20 minutes of his set swearing that he would never play Houston again... If only we could be that lucky! 30 seconds was to too long for this act let alone 30 minutes.
As the sun descended into the Ferris Wheel that is the backdrop to the arena Deep Purple took to the stage. A greying, barefoot Ian Gillan was obviously not faring well in the heat and sang the same verse to the opening number "Woman From Tokyo" three times. I was well over 110f with better than 70% humidity in the covered area of the arena as the band then ripped into "Ted The Mechanic" and "Big Ian" was becoming extremely red in the face.
Fortunately "Lazy" was next with the extended intro offering a break to the beleaguered vocalist. By this time they had captured the majority of the audience which they then mysteriously relinquished by playing "Fools". Big Ian, again showing signs of his failing memory introduced it as being from the "Who Do We Think We Are" album back in 1972.
I have seen Purple many times back home in England and I guessed correctly that this was a wrong turn. Don't get me wrong, if this had been played on a headlining tour to their own fans then there would have been no problems, but the song is not immediately accessible and it lost the majority audience of Skynyrd fans. Purple then had to work hard to regain the ground that they thrown away and "Knocking At Your Back Door" was not quite the song required, and neither was "No One Came". In fact it was not until "Perfect Strangers" that the audience showed any signs of recovering their interest. Whenever I see the band play this song I miss the simple but highly effective laser show that used to accompany during the Blackmore era and by this time it was full dark so it would have been a welcome addition to what was obviously a support slot. Unusually Jon Lord was 'stage centre' for the show, something I have never seen before and with no obvious reason for the change from 'stage left'.
"When A Blind Man Cries" was superbly performed vocally and at last the neutrals in the crowd were back on their feet.
Then the "Steve Morse Party Piece." It was apparent watching the faces of the other band members that they enjoy this as much as the audience and from their anticipation have no idea what he will play or in what order from one night to the next. Tonight it was: "Voodoo Chile", "Crossroads", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Kashmir, "You Really Got Me" (as an entire song with Big Ian singing) and "Backdoor Love Affair". "Smoke On The Water" was greeted with an enormous roar of approval and a packed (sell out) crowd on their feet as one.
The band returned for the encores of "Hush" and "Highway Star" and leaving the audience calling for more.
On reflection, for all the talk about this being a joint headline tour there was only one headliner and it was Skynyrd, which is why the light show for Purple being one of the poorest that I remember and in front of such an audience the decision to play "Fools" must be regarded as a huge tactical error. It was noticeable that "Pictures Of Home" had been dropped from the set and this number would have been far more suitable for this type crowd providing a better balance.
It was also fairly obvious that the heat and humidity was a major drain so it must be said that this was not Deep Purple's finest hour, an opinion borne out by the show at Houston which was far better and showed that they had managed to acclimatise themselves.
Too much from the road
Another band I was looking forward to seeing was Lynyrd Skynyrd, having owned "One More From The Road" since it's original release. Once again, I was disappointed. The openers were the two opening tracks from the above album played exactly as they were recorded; even down to the spoken add libs uttered by Ronnie Van Zant. The only real difference was that before and after "Working For MCA" and "I Ain't The One" the name of Texas got dropped about 20 times.
It was also very sad to sad to see former Blackfoot guitar giants Ricky Medlocke prowling the stage like a bored tiger and Charlie Hargrett reduced to four strings; Medlocke would walk the stage and go into occasional spins (looking for inspiration?) whilst Hargrett would have on a new hat for each number????? We stayed for another six songs (each sounding as mechanical as the first two) before finally leaving, in this time we became thoroughly sick of hearing "Texas.
Lynyrd Skynyrd were much like the Rolling Stones being asked to perform the greatest hits of the Who. There is a song over here that goes something along the lines of: "You're a Redneck if... your family tree don't branch and it was noticeable that for Skynrds set there were several artificial trees, but not one branch!
Whatever, Rednecks or not! This was indisputably Skynyrds audience.