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Concert Reviews:
Kid Rock Makes Maximum Impact At Comerica Park

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, July 18, 2009

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DETROIT -- About a third of the way into his concert Friday night (July 17) at Comerica Park, Kid Rock declared to the 40,000 or so fans that "we're gonna have a little party here tonight!"

Of course, there was nothing little about it.

The first of Rock's two shows at the home of the Detroit Tigers was a bombastic display of genuine, heartfelt civic pride hosted by someone who musically branded himself a "redneck, rock 'n' roll son of Detroit." The Clarkston resident made the entire affair something to remember, from the various activities of the Block Party that took place outside the stadium to the Detroit-flavored warm-up music that preceded his two-hour show.

And from the chest-thumping of "Son of Detroit," the night's second song, to the first encore, a reflective new number called "In Times Like These" whose chorus affirmed that "I heard them say they're shutting Detroit down/But I won't leave 'cause this is my home town" while a series of iconic Detroit images appeared on the four video screens to a loud wave of applause.

Rock went for the big gesture, in other words, and smartly embraced the scale of the occasion, both visually and aesthetically. There was no trying to turn Comerica Park into a small club at work on Friday; with ample pyrotechnics and lasers, Rock's show was designed for maximum impact -- though Friday's winds blew down a curtain he planned to use for the opening "Rock N Roll Jesus," delaying the start of the show nearly half an hour.

Nevertheless, there was plenty of eye candy to behold -- which did not at all eclipse the musical integrity of Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker band. Prowling a 60-foot ramp that jutted from the stage into the field, Rock fiercely reminded the crowd that the ensemble was playing live, without taped enhancement, and that "this is...no 'American Idol' bull..." And the troupe's 21-song repertoire touched on enough outside sources to create a sense of context for not only Rock's music but also the varied tastes of the region that's always made Detroit and Michigan music so rich and diverse.

Some of the tricks were familiar -- breaking into Waylon Jennings' "Theme From The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol' Boys)" during "Cowboy" chief among them. But there were other twists, including a truncated cover of the Rolling Stones' "Tumbling Dice," segues into the Georgia Satellites' "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" during "Lowlife" and Sly & the Family Stone's "Everyday People" in a sawmpy version of "Rock 'n' Roll Pain Train," and mash-up of Guns N' Roses "Paradise City" with the opening chorus of "Wastin' Time."

Rock used a version of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away," meanwhile, to pay tribute to a random assortment of his late personal musical heroes, ranging from the late Twisted Brown Trucker MC Joe C. to Janis Joplin, John Lennon, members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. It finished with an image of Michael Jackson -- which, interestingly was both cheered and booed by the Comerica crowd -- and led into a rendition of the Jackson 5's "ABC," with Rock trading lines with backup singer Jessica Wagner.

Rock and company also delivered plenty of their regular favorites -- "American Bad Ass," "Cocky," "Picture" (featuring Rock's other backup singer Stacey Michelle), "3 Sheets to the Wind" and "Bawitdaba" -- along with material from 2008's triple-platinum "Rock N Roll Jesus" album, including the big hit "All Summer Long," "Amen" and the sublimely soulful "Roll On." Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." brought things to a rousing conclusion, expanding the civic perspective into a nation-sized sentiment of pride and resilience.

Friday's opening acts certainly helped get the crowd in the right frame of mind, despite periodic rain that fell during each set. Robert Randolph & the Family Band's 45-minute performance was somewhat swallowed up by the mostly empty stadium -- where many fans were in concourse-clogging lines to sample Rock's American Bad Ass beer for the first time -- but still featured fiery versions of "Jesus is Just Alright With Me," a snippet of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" and Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)."

Lynyrd Skynyrd, meanwhile, fared better. Following the "Star Spangled Banner" sung by Rock protege Ty Stone, the Southern rock icons charged into their 70-minute set with "Skynyrd Nation," one of two songs they played from their forthcoming album "God and Guns." That and "Still Unbroken" went over well, but what the crowd really wanted was the old favorites, and Skynyrd dished them up in abundance -- "Saturday Night Special," "Gimme Three Steps," "That Smell," "Call Me the Breeze," "Sweet Home Alabama" -- usually accompanied by nostalgic footage and still photos. The encore, of course, could only be one song, and "Free Bird" did not disappoint with its closing barrage of intertwined guitar solos.

Alice in Chains and Cypress Hill open for Rock on Saturday (July 18) at Comerica Park. Tickets remain at $69.50 and $49.50, along with VIP packages that range from $250-$800. Call (313) 471-2000 or visit www.kidrock.com.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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