At the Patriot Center Saturday night, Kid Rock was running on AAA batteries--adrenaline, attitude and aggression. Which is exactly what you'd expect from someone whose defining influences are metal, rap and redneck rock. All blend noisily in his musical maelstrom--he calls it "straight out the trailer" hick-hop--in ways that have catapulted the Detroit native from supporting act just a few months ago on Limp Bizkit's Limptropolis tour to headlining status and quadruple platinum sales for his latest album, "Devil Without a Cause." It's a potent, noisy brew that lacks the doltishness of Insane Clown Posse or the high-mindedness of Rage Against the Machine, instead offering a party-oriented, white-trash, blue-collar celebration more akin to Lynyrd Skynyrd. In fact, Skynyrd was one of several inspirations cited from the stage by Kid Rock, along with Hank Williams, Aerosmith and Run-DMC, and those artists' imprints were all over the music like oversize Timberlands.
Following openers DDT and Powerman 5000, Kid Rock rose up above the stage in a floor-length white fur coat and top hat, accompanied by a trio of go-go dancers who spent most of the night walking back and forth between cages high above the action, to no particular purpose. Smartly, Kid Rock quickly dropped the "pimp of the nation" pose and got down to the business of rock-and-rap with "Bawitdaba," one of several party anthems in which he set the night's agenda: "It's all good and it's all in fun/ so get in the pit and love someone." This was directed to the expansive mosh pit that engulfed much of the Patriot Center floor, and Kid Rock did his part to keep folks hopping with tracks like "Welcome 2 the Party," "Somebody's Gotta Feel This," "I Am the Bullgod" and "Devil Without a Cause." (Missing in action: Kid Rock's mini-mouth, Joe C., usually showcased on this number.) These songs are quintessential Kid Rock, mixing old-school rapping and riff-heavy metal crunch in the manner first popularized in the mid-'80s when Run-DMC and Aerosmith decided to "Walk This Way." Run-DMC met Lynyrd Skynyrd on "I Am the Bulldog"--alternating rapped verse and keening chorus--while the redneck rockers' influence was particularly evident on the encore, "Only God Knows Why," a pathos-laden power ballad with the yearning ambition of "Free Bird."
Kid Rock--a k a Bob Ritchie--was aided in his endeavors by Twisted Brown Trucker, a hard-rock band with a deejay that gave the heavier music a hefty, head-rattling jolt, thanks to the twinned guitars of Kenny Olson and Jason Krause and drummer Stefanie Eulinberg; yet they also managed to hold back just enough on lighter, pop-friendly fare like "Cowboy" and "Wasting Time" (built on a Fleetwood Mac sample, of all things).
Less effective were Kid Rock's forays into other people's material, even a less-than-clever Y2K update of Hank Williams Jr.'s "A Country Boy Can Survive," which he first covered five years ago. Kid Rock did better with Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son"--at least historically, it plays into a working-class angst only hinted at in Kid Rock's original material. But a turgid reading of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band" seemed lost on an audience that was probably in diapers the last time that band meant anything.
As in the past, Kid Rock railed against his limitations by playing, at various times (and once sequentially), guitar, keyboards and drums, with a little turntable scratching thrown in for good measure. However, he was much more effective and convincing prowling the stage with the manic expressiveness of another Motor City madman, Ted Nugent. Though there was no dearth of explicit language and Neanderthal mentality, there seemed to be less fixation on the one-finger salute and other pre-Woodstock rabble-rousing routines. Kid Rock simply wanted to party hearty, and on Saturday, he got no arguments.
CAPTION: Detroit's Kid Rock: Appropriating a half-dozen genres in his own unique way.