Performers like Alan Jackson and George Strait were born to be on the RodeoHouston stage. Others like Bob Dylan and Janet Jackson may have sounded like a Rodeo reach, but end up pulling off the gig nicely.
And every once in a great while there is an artist who is so perfect for the rodeo stage the only question to ask when it's over is, "Why did it take so long to get these two together?"
Ladies and gentleman of the rodeo, meet Kid Rock... your future.
For one hour and 10 songs to kick off spring break, the Detroit-area rapper-turned-rocker who has dabbled more and more in country in recent years, pulled off the near-impossible at Reliant Stadium. This American Bad Ass made a Monday night at the rodeo ignite with energy normally reserved for weekends.
"I know it's Monday night, but we're gonna turn it into Saturday night," said Mr. Rock as fire canisters exploded and electric guitars, courtesy of his backing Twisted Brown Trucker Band, led him into the blues stomp of new song, "God Bless Saturday," from his latest album, Born Free.
Over the last 13 years fans have watched Kid Rock evolve from pot-smoking, early morning stoned pimp to a Bob Seger-Lynryrd Skynyrd motivated devil without a cause and finally a man who can duet on a balled with Sheryl Crow and date Pamela Anderson simultaneously without making either seem phony. At the rodeo he condensed this metamorphosis down to a handful of songs. And he did it effortlessly.
Appearing in black and gold western wear to open the show, Kid Rock went to work on the buckle n' boot crowd with his 1999 Top 10 hit, "Cowboy" (as if there would be any other opener), with a cover of Waylon Jennings, "Good Ol' Boys" (aka the theme song from "The Dukes of Hazzard") mixed in for good measure.
After that it was love at first sight and the Monday night party was on.
Kid Rock immediately set the gears on his music genre-shifting machine in motion. Stripping down to a T-shirt and his signature pimp fedora, he made a soulful run through an unexpected selection of "Lowlife (Living The Highlife)" from 2007's Rock n Roll Jesus. A quick nod to The Georgia Satellites "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" at the end of the song was just more fuel for the spring break party fire.
Kid Rock is not just just a chameleon when it comes to music styles. He also like to mix up how he plays it. He sat behind a piano and let a talented, soulful back-up singer take vocals for "Care" (originally sung with Mary J. Blige on Born Free) before going semi-acoustic for a sit-down duet with another female band member for past country-crossover hit, "Picture" (a hit with Sheryl Crow nearly a decade ago).
Last week, Janet Jackson made no mention of her last performance at Reliant Stadium: The famed Super Bowl XXXVIII "wardrobe malfunction" in 2004. Kid Rock playfully reminded the crowd he also performed at that Super Bowl, though, after seeing Ms. Jackson's bosom few remember it.
For the final push he played nearly every instrument on stage, including a bad ass ZZ Top lick on electric guitar for signature party anthem "Badwitdaba" and then paid appropriate homage to the occasion by standing solemnly while a saxophone player brought the crowd to attention with a sterling solo of "The Star Spangled Banner" that led into new heartland anthem, "Born Free."
And when it was down, the standing and screaming crowd at Reliant Stadium begged for something rare at the rodeo: an encore. They didn't get it, but by keeping the show just between the lines of clean, but dangerous, he should have a standing invitation to RodeoHouston for years to come.
In hindsight, it's a natural pairing that should have happened long ago. I'm often critical of the choosing of acts at the rodeo, but I give the RodeoHouston bookers high praise for nailing this one.