I'll be honest . . . Wednesday morning was the first time I've spent anytime listening to Kid Rock.
Yeah, I remember the cowboy song from the late '90s and that other metal-sounding "up jump the boogie" tune. Other than that, though, I needed Spotify to fill in the gaps.
A lot has changed for Rock, aka Robert James Ritchie, in the last decade — the most striking of which is his complete abandonment of the rap-rock that made him a millionaire. Since 1998's Devil Without a Cause and 2001's Cocky, he's moved closer and closer to a careful blend of honky-tonk country and '70s hard rock.
It's southern rock packed with Detroit muscle.
His Wednesday night performance at the Houston Rodeo covered material from his entire career, and while it sounds like all these genres might get muddled, Kid Rock oddly (and rather impressively) managed to pull it off.
Thankfully for me, the show kicked off with the familiar "Cowboy," an entertaining License to Ill-style track about moving to Los Angeles. It also features the greatest Kid Rock line ever:
Buy a yacht with a flag saying "chillin' the most"
Then rock that bitch up and down the coast
The next song, "Rock Bottom Blues" from his most recent album Born Free, didn't really do it for me. Sure, it had a nice balance of pre-disco Rolling Stones and some early Aerosmith. It just wasn't "Cowboy," so I decided to buy a five-dollar Miller Lite to get in the mood.
When I returned to my seat, there was a nice surprise: Rock back in full hip-hop mode with "Forever" from Cocky, complete with the guitar parts from — check it out — "Tom (freakin') Sawyer." That's right, the guy rapped these ridiculous lyrics over Rush's immortal 1981 hit . . . and it was amazing.
When the classic rock mash-up "All Summer Long" came on next, I was totally on board. Suddenly, it all made sense.
The utter genius of Kid Rock is that you don't even need to know the songs. They're mainly just bits and pieces of '70s rock, a genre with which I'm much more familiar than, say, rap-rock.
The utter genius of Kid Rock is that you don't even need to know the songs. Th ey're mainly just bits and pieces of '70s rock.
Say you're like me and you never heard "All Summer Long" from 2010's Rock n Roll Jesus until Wednesday morning. Not to worry. The song is made from two of rock music's biggest hits, "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Werewolves of London." It's absolutely brilliant.
But maybe not as brilliant as "3 Sheets to the Wind," a hip-hop song Rock used to showcase his multi-instrumental talents. Firs,t he smoked a cigar while scratching in the DJ booth. Then, it was onto guitar for ZZ Top riffs and a quick Peter Frampton-style solo during which he spoke the words "Texas Likes to Party" through an actual talk box.
Just when you thought he ran out of tricks, two heroes of yesteryear appeared on the screen at the back of the stage. It was Beavis and Butthead and they were getting ready to "up jump the boogie" for a song I later learned was titled "Bawitdaba." Massive flames shot 40 feet into the air through most of the track, but Kid Rock kept his cool.
The Bob Seger-esque "Born Free" closed out the evening with our fearless performer standing on a baby grand piano as images of bald eagles, mountaintops and even the U.S. Constitution were projected onto the stage.
He asked the crowd if they still felt they lived "in the greatest country in the world." The audience roared while Kid Rock was driven away on the back of a pickup truck.