No Kidding Around
Last Thursday night I caught Kid Rock at the Colorado Convention Center, and all I have to say is, WTF? Talk about a miserable experience. And I'm not referring to Kid's performance, which was rote but entertaining. Think Coldplay does arena rock by the numbers? You ain't seen shit. Or, in the words of the early-mornin' stoned pimp himself, "You Never Met a Motherfucker Quite Like Me."
But first things first: Why would anyone in his right mind part with hard-earned loot to see a rock show, any rock show, at the Convention Center? The venue clearly wasn't designed with the music fan in mind. Aesthetically, the place is pristine, and no doubt an architectural feat. But I've had more enjoyable times seeing shows at Monkey Mania. Line, line, everywhere a line. Gotta hit the head? Line. Drinks? Bigger line. And things just get worse from there. The seats are so bad, you need a chiropractor on retainer. And the sound? Abysmal. You know how when you're making your way from your car to Coors Amphitheater to see a show and you can hear the music pouring over the walls, all garbled vocals bookended by low-end and mid-range frequencies? Well, the sound here is like that -- but worse.
It was so bad, in fact, that after listening to a handful of songs from the North Mississippi Allstars -- an outfit I kind of dig -- I hit the bricks to the microscopic outdoor smoking area in search of a few moments of respite. And wouldn't you know it, not two seconds after firing up, I heard a shrill noise that made the hair on my arms stand up. At the south end of the building sits a fire station, and this must have been a slow night, because just outside one of the station's bay doors, a random fireman began breathing into some bagpipes. To say it sounded like someone smashing a bag full of cats against the wall would be kind.
Five minutes of that torture was all I could take, so I headed back to the hall -- where I was greeted by My People, a throng of mullets and skullets, Chucks and Suzies, grizzled biker mamas and their old men. The fruit of my loins, Lowercase D, felt a little alienated: "Dad, I feel like I've entered Joe Dirt land," he awkwardly declared. I grew up on the east side of Northglenn, so I felt right at home -- but the little dude had a point. The crowd did look like a confab of NASCAR and WWE fans crashing a keg party at Sturgis. If Heavy Metal Parking Lot had been filmed at a Molly Hatchet concert rather than a Judas Priest show, this might have been the result.We made it back to our nosebleed seats in time to catch our long-haired buddy from Detroit emerge through a trap door on the top riser of the stage, which was draped in red linens and resembled a Holiday Inn reception room. Clad in a black fur coat, black cowboy shirt and pants adorned with gold rhinestones, and his trademark fedora, Rock was ready to, well, rock. And on this tour, as promised, he pulled out all the stops -- and cliches. Scantily clad broads grinding on stripper poles (and each other). Flash pots and enough pyro to set the entire enchanted forest ablaze. And more gratuitous F-bombs than have appeared in this space in the past three years.
Kid kicked off the show with "Where U at Rock," followed by "Son of Detroit," both to uproarious applause. The rest of the set was peppered with his hits -- "Picture," "Only God Knows Why," "Bawitdaba" -- and cringe-worthy takes on Bad Company's "Feel Like Making Love" and Dobie Gray's "Drift Away," which featured an inexplicable 808 and a pandering slide show that included everyone from Bob Marley to Kurt Cobain to Hank Sr. to Elvis to Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac.
But the evening's true highlight was when Kid introduced "You Never Met a Motherfucker Quite Like Me," offering a humorous rant about meeting his deceased sidekick Joe C -- who "will be waiting for me with a big fatty" -- at the gates of heaven, and tossing in a nod to his recent sex tape with Scott Stapp. "I have fucked up from time to time," he said with a laugh, "like each and every one of us." That song segued into a karaoke-ready version of "Freebird," with Rock throwing down in front of an image of Ronnie Van Zant on the JumboTron that morphed into the Confederate flag. A Yank proselytizing the South: Who'da thunk it? But then, over the course of his career, Kid has always subverted people's expectations. He contends he's a product of his environment, but I'd say he's made adjustments to his sound at exactly the right time.
Rock wasn't always a rocker. Before he made the transition from novelty white-boy rapper (let's face it) to the genre-splicing minstrel he is today, Rock was a bona fide B-boy. If you check out his 1990 debut Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast, you'll find a pale MC with a high-top fade and a marginal old-school cadence. And he rode that shtick well into the '90s (albeit largely under the radar). When another intrepid white kid from Motown who had flow for real emerged and usurped that niche, Rock reinvented himself. The result was 1998's Devil Without a Cause, which deftly fused elements of rap and rock. Rock's timing was fortuitous: The Mooks, led by Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, had just begun to rule the airwaves. And a few years later, when rap rock went the way of the dodo, Rock remade his image again, this time embracing his inner Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bocephus, adding elements of Southern rock and honky-tonk. He's decent at about half the genres he's tackled, but he hasn't nailed any one in particular.
And toward the end of his Denver set, when he took a turn on each of the instruments, rather than coming off as some sort of renaissance man, he seemed more like a jack of all trades, master of none. He was surprisingly decent behind the tables, but merely serviceable on drums, keys and guitar: Remedially plunking on a piano and playing one-finger power chords on a Flying V tuned to drop-D does not a musician make. But the crowd still loved him.
Because while he may not be much of a musician, Kid rocked the hell out of 'em. If only this venue could do the same.
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