About halfway through his set at the Cruzan Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Florida, Friday night, Kid Rock saluted the Twisted Brown Trucker Band, the 10 excellent musicians backing him. "There's no Pro Tools, no tapes, no trickery," the man born Robert James Ritchie to a suburban Detroit auto dealer said. "This ain't no American Idol bullshit; this is some American badass shit."
It's true: Kid's band, anchored by dynamo orange-'froed drummer Stephanie Eulinberg, kept the opening night of the Rock and Rebels tour on high musical ground, rather than plummeting into parody. Was it nice to see a live concert that really felt live? Yeah, Auto-Tune is destroying music (arguably). Does that make Kid Rock more authentic — let alone badass — than Carrie Underwood? Ladies and gentlemen, Kid Rock is an entertainer. He's got a lot more PT Barnum than Bob Dylan in him. But he puts on a solid show.
Kid took the stage silhouetted against a white sheet. Stooped over with his long hair hanging out of his trademark bowler, he looked not unlike the old cartoon hillbilly character that had played on the video screen behind Lynyrd Skynyrd about a half-hour earlier. Make no mistake: Ritchie is playing a character. He launched his career by being a white rapper from the Motor City while Marshall Mathers was still in puberty. But a few years ago, he began emphasizing the rock side of his rock-rap hybrid, and by the time he was singing "Sweet Home Alabama" on his '08 hit "All Summer Long," Kid was embracing his backwoods FM radio-rock roots.
Kid played all the hits: "Cat Scratch Fever," "Tumbling Dice," "Everyday People." He played his own songs, too — "Bawitdaba," "Rock N Roll Jesus," "Cowboy." The funniest part of the evening was when he took a turn behind the turntables, scratching nimbly with one hand while pouring himself a shot of Jim Beam with the other. He also played piano, drums and guitar.
Lynyrd Skynyrd have been playing without Auto-Tune for a few decades now — and it showed when singer Jonny Van Zant warbled off pitch and pianist Peter "Keys" Pisarczyk (replacing Billy Powell, who died in January) stumbled over the keys in their final song, which was, of course (shout it!), "Free Bird." Skynyrd, like Rock, paid tribute to troops overseas and the USA. Like Rock, they also flashed the Confederate Flag — a "rebel" insignia — around. It was not a stylistic statement echoed by the audience in any numbers.
Being a rebel, of course, is an iconic pop music pose. Skynyrd's songs celebrate being alone and staying the same. That's the myth of the cowboy/road warrior that they cling to, like change you can't believe in. Kid Rock's stance is slightly more evolved. He acts like a womanizing, anti-intellectual drunkard, but in a funny duet with Eulinberg, he also made fun of just what a silly character that is.
Kid played almost an hour and 45 minutes, with no encore. He and Skynyrd never shared the stage, not even during "All Summer Long." Having already toured together last year, maybe the two generation of long-haired rockers no longer need to high-five.
Kid Rock's Set List:
"Rock N Roll Jesus"
"Son of Detroit"
"You Never Met a Motherfucker Quite Like Me"
"Devil Without a Cause"
"Lowlife (Livin' the Highlife)"
"Keep Your Hands to Yourself"
"All Summer Long"
"Rock N Roll Pain Train"
"Blue Jeans and a Rosary"
"One More Time"
"Half Your Age"
"I Am the Bullgod"
"My Name Is Rock"