A few years ago, Southern rock somehow ended up in Detroit, started rapping, and named itself Kid Rock. Every year or two it makes its way down to Central Arkansas and to legions of fans.
Alltel Arena’s crowd greeted Kid Rock last Friday night like he was a hometown hero. They knew every rhyme, followed his every command, and responded to his amped-up boogie with an equally high decibel response.
As long as he kept the music loud, rude and gleefully trashy, Rock’s show was a success for his fans and a guilty pleasure for the rest. The large video screen, pillars of fire, and scantily clad pole-dancing girls never overwhelmed the man himself, who arose at the start of the show wearing a black fur pimp coat with the word “cowboy” on the back.
The momentum slowed during the encores when he performed his Sheryl Crow duet “Picture” (his drummer sang the female part) and his “Freebird” rewrite “Only God Knows Why,” but he would have alienated his top 40 radio fans had he not performed them.
More successful was the Delta-blues-meets-stoner metal of “Jackson, Mississippi,” a song worthy of the pyrotechnics that accompanied it. Another highlight was the cheesy patriotism of his performance of “America the Beautiful,” which segued into his rap-rock anthem “American Badass.”
The latter was accompanied by a video featuring images of contemporary American icons ranging from Dale Earnhardt to Hunter S. Thompson (who would probably not have approved of the use of his picture).
Kid Rock took a similar approach in the video that accompanied his cover of the Dobie Gray hit “Drift Away,” which showed almost every deceased modern music star of the past 50 years. Even Frank Zappa made an appearance.
It was interesting to see which artists garnered the largest responses, such as when an image of Tupac Shakur was greeted with one of the biggest cheers of the night.
While he is by no means a great artist, Rock is definitely a versatile musician, as he proved during his instrument-switching jam with his band. He even brought out a banjo for a little musical interplay with one of his guitarists and also showed some impressive turntable scratching abilities, reminding those devotees of his early material that he started his musical career as a DJ.
This versatility sets Rock apart from other modern hard rock and rap-rock artists and is something that opening act Ty Stone lacked. Although blessed with a soulful voice, his country-rock material was bland compared with the genre-hopping excursions of Rock.
It is possible, however, that Stone could achieve success based on the novelty of his considerable heft. He is the only overweight rock singer that comes to mind this side of Meatloaf and pre-diet John Popper.
The night belonged to the main attraction, though, and his lukewarm opener only helped Rock’s star shine all the more. Friday night proved that as long as he is making music, this kid will always have an adoring audience in Arkansas.