A white drape adorned the stage prior to
Kid Rock’s appearance. After Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” teased
the formidable frontman’s arrival, a white spotlight shone on the
drape, outlining Rock’s shadow of the man behind the curtain. The
bombastic sounds of “Rock’n’Roll Jesus” then erupted from Kid Rock’s
live band, climaxing in the revelation of the stage setup: a mass of
explosions and a gigantic U.S. flag.
From the concert’s onset Kid Rock
displayed a respectable degree of showmanship to which you have to give
credit. While the confusing mix of hip-hop, rock and country that forms
the base of Kid Rock’s songwriting has been criticized during his now
two-decade career, he seems genuinely invested in attempting to pull a
crowd into his show regardless of his obvious pretensions.
The musician then teased the crowd with
ZZ Top’s “La Grange” prior to launching into “Son of Detroit,” a song
that describes the rocker’s Motor City roots. Following that notion,
the vocalist covered the Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice,” demonstrating
that he’s rarely afraid of outright stealing from musicians who have
come before him.
“You Never Met a Motherfucker Quite Like
Me” juxtaposed the warm, classic rock reference, curling under the heat
of harmonica player Jimmie Bones and bringing Rock’s hip-hop
sensibilities into the mix. Kid Rock’s passable hit “Cowboy” then
appealed to the Syracuse crowd when, for some unknown reason, the crew
made a production decision to display a picture of Syracuse University
football player Ernie Davis on the Jumbo-Tron. Given that Kid Rock has
built his career on singles, a solid flaunting of his hits is sort of a
prerequisite, as Rock’s “art” shares in common with Madonna and other
iconic artists its connection to image more so than subtle songwriting
and delicately carved lyricism.
A crowd-pleasing celebration of the grittier side of American lifestyles came in the form of “Lowlife
(Living the Highlife),” yet with lyrics that celebrate poverty and a
lack of appreciation for much beyond a NASCAR race, you have to wonder
where Kid Rock could go from such a tune. If you’re trying to top a
song that puts things like thinking “racist jokes are funny” on a
pedestal, what could be worse: a song called “I’m a Convicted Felon?”
Regardless, given that such songs are at
least partly tongue-in-cheek, the concert was more or less innocent
enough, and Rock took time to thank fans for coming out with a genuine
sensibility that you don’t often find in today’s music culture. “I know
times are tough, so we wanted to make sure we said ‘Thank you’ for
spending your hard-earned money to come out tonight,” the Kid said. The
artist also was sure to point out that, unlike some touring outfits on
the road these days, his band is made up entirely of real musicians,
and that no recorded tracks are a part of his show.
Offsetting the balance of that
graciousness, Rock later gratuitously took over on each of those
instruments during an every-instrument solo song toward the end of the
set, and while the gesture–to prove that he’s a “real” musician and not
just a singer–was well-enough intended, Kid Rock’s instrumental skill
on turntables, drums, guitar (modified with a Peter Frampton Talk Box)
is laughable at best.
Of course “Bawitdaba” completed the
dramatic cycle, which culminated after Kid Rock had caused the crowd to
chant his name, hence affirming his narcissistic side. Yet regardless
of Rock’s often-mentioned failings of the past, which included banking
too hard on sampling from other musicians among other things, he came
across as surprisingly endearing throughout the night.
Note: For reasons unknown to the Syracuse New Times,
at the last minute staff photographer Michael Davis was crossed off the
list of allowed photographers at the concert, leaving us without an
image to accompany the story. Overall, press conditions at the State
Fair were more difficult this year than in previous years, which
limited our ability to properly cover this year’s run of concerts at
the Grandstand and at Chevy Court.