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ZZ, Ted at top of their games

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ZZ TOP AND TED NUGENT, USANA Amphitheater, Wednesday.

WEST VALLEY CITY — ZZ Top and Ted Nugent can still make arena audiences scream and play air guitar.

The Nuge raced onto the USANA stage armed with his guitar, an American flag and his right-wing philosophy. After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the band launched into "Free for All."

Energetically spewing blues-based guitar leads and conservative rants, Nugent slid into "Wango Tango" and "Snakeskin Cowboys."

His between-song banter paid tribute to the troops in Iraq, President George W. Bush and the right to bear arms. He took catty swipes at the Dixie Chicks and Sarah Brady during the attitude-laden "Kiss My . . ." and romped around on the stage, which was covered with camouflage and assault weapons. He even used his trusty technical bow to shoot a titanium-tipped arrow through the heart of a cardboard Saddam Hussein as the audience cheered. Nugent's trademark works "Cat Scratch Fever," "Fred Bear" and "Stranglehold" capped off the Motor City Madman's set.

At times Nugent was cartoonish, but ZZ Top's guitarist Billy F. Gibbons, bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard reveled in their own cartoonish image.

Gibbons and Hill emerged in flashy velvet 10-gallon hats and sequined panchos, while Beard pounded out bluesy rhythms on a flame-decaled double-bass drumset.

"Gimme All Your Lovin' " kicked off the Top's set, followed by "Pincushion" and "Jesus Left Chicago."

"Manic Mechanic," "Cheap Sunglasses" and a new tune, "Buck Nekkid," from the album "Mescalero" raised the band's performance bar. But it was the '80s hits "Sharp Dressed Men," "Tube Snake Boogie" and what Gibbons called "the pretty one" — "Rough Boy" — that really took hold of the audience.

It was interesting to hear Nugent's ethnocentric soliloquies, and then to shift gears for ZZ Top's Tex-Mex boogie blues. What would Nugent have done if he had realized Beard's drums were made in Japan?

E-mail: scott@desnews.com