Sweaty Uncle Teddy

Just got back from Ted Nugent’s appearance at the Wisconsin Valley Fair, where he held court Thursday, Aug. 2. What a show!
I’m not usually a big classic-rock guy. Haven’t been since getting burnt out on it during my college summer jobs spent listening to WAPL in the ’90s. (Didn’t realize Pink Floyd and The Doors only had three songs.) But this was a little different.
For starters, I wasn’t all that familiar with Nugent’s stuff; by reputation only, really. I remember a comedy bit about a classical station that changed its format to classic rock but kept its classical DJs. So this British-accented gent back-announced “The Rolling Stones quartet … with Honky Tonk Women, and befo’ that, we had the Ted Nugent orchestra with Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.”

But really, Nuge largely kept his politics out of it. Save for a couple of single-digit salutes to Gov. Jim Doyle and Sen. Russ Feingold, of course. But he was just saying what most of us were thinking on some level.

But, from the opening intonations of “Free for All” to the closing coda of his “Fred Bear” encore, Nugent’s show was a study in the kind of energy and enthusiasm we all should hope to have at the age of 59. It carried through to his “sacrifice” of the Great White Buffalo via flaming arrow near the end of his set. He offered some tributes to each branch of service, too. And if I had a nickel for every time he invoked the “Spirit of the Wild” in northern Wisconsin … well, I’d have several nickels.

But I think that’s what really got me about ‘Nuge,’ knowing that he really meant what he was preaching. He wasn’t just saying it to get ratings or sell a book. I felt like he really believed the conservative, all-American mantra he’s been preaching all these years. After all, he predates Fox News Channel and its conservative pundits by almost 30 years.

At Nugent’s show, I felt comfortable, like I was among friends who believed as I did. It felt good to love my country, to wish for victory in Iraq, and to be an American. Live Earth this wasn’t.

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