Better Than: Jock Jams: Volume 5.
It has been said that a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none. However, while someone like Dave Grohl feeds his children by disproving the aforementioned statement, Kid Rock has managed to spin a career out of what boils down to on-stage vivisections of the term.
Last night, the latter, also known as Mr. Robert James "Bob" Ritchie, lured a legion of fans to line the floor and walls of the Hard Rock Live Hollywood auditorium for the first of his two night Hollywood occupancy. It was, as Rock put it, a warm up for whatever illicit activities people had planned for New Year's Eve. But that did not stop the Michigan native and his "Twisted Brown Trucker Band" from throwing down a hearty slab of pseudo-country, rap-rock, uh, metal-ish stuff.
- Photos: Kid Rock at Seminole Hard Rock Live
For the sake of objectivity, we're going to get the positives out of the way first: Rock's performance was high energy -- he was seemingly everywhere at once, and to call the performance anything less than professional would be a serious oversight. The band (which featured several members that have been with Rock since the early days) was comprised of only top caliber players. There was some really great guitar playing, and if you don't enjoy watching drummer Stefanie Eulinberg slam away at her drums, you might have had a stroke or be dead.
However, when one digs beyond the bombast of an 11-piece band of (honestly) talented players and the well-oiled energy of the show, there is, really, very little to hold onto within a Kid Rock performance.
In clear defiance of the near
20 million records 27 million records he has sold and the multiple Grammy nods he boasts, Kid Rock's songs simply are not very good. This includes the more refined country-rock numbers that have replaced the abandoned yelling over Metallica riffs that made the rap-rocker famous in the late '90s.
The curious thing is that, despite it being fairly common knowledge that Kid Rock totally sucks, there was a full audience -- with a minimum ticket price in the range of $60. The crowd had no specific vibe, there were families, your standard-issue casino types, a few younger faces, but in general, no one demographic was specifically represented. Also (thankfully) missing was any of Rock's recent political rhetoric, which would have certainly made for a far more interesting article, but in its absence, made for a far more enjoyable evening.
The set featured plenty of Rock's CMT approved pseudo-country, all of which blended together to make for one big, kind-of-sort-of twangy song, punctuated by the words "redneck" and Rock's trademark "ha!" calls. The biggest moments of the night were, of course, the big hits, including an early appearance of "Devil Without a Cause" and the audience losing control for the harmonica introduction of "Cowboy." Every one in the room was suddenly transformed into a head-bobbing hype-man for "American Badass," and it appeared they had brushed up on the lyrics of Rock's duet with Sheryl Crow, "Picture," which had Crow's parts performed by backing singer/guitarist Shannon Curfman.
The other big moments of the evening came by way of other people's music, sprinkled in throughout the show for good measure. Aside from the previously mentioned Metallica riff lifted for "American Badass", a nod at the Motor City Madman Ted Nugent came during a solo feature that Rock crafted for himself towards the end of the set. He played some electric guitar, put on a ball cap, and did some scratching on DJ Paradime's tables, played the drums while singing "Cat Scratch Fever," sang "let's get shitfaced" through a Peter Frampton style guitar talk-box, and basically did everything possible to attempt to show just how multi-faceted the talents of Kid Rock truly are. He even rapped over Freddie King's "Going Down."
From the moment the show began (to a pre-recorded introduction of "Don't Stop Believin'") to Rock's mid-set costume change, to Richard Petty's famous be-feathered cowboy hat and fringed leather jacket, the point of Kid Rock's concert really boiled down to a group of people getting as drunk as possible to a combination of mediocre country music and musical appropriations, mixed-in with what comes off in the context of a setlist as awkwardly aggressive hits from the '90s.
The heartbreak of it all is that Kid Rock sells big, the place was packed -- and people were having a really good time. Not only that, they paid a lot of money to see this show. In the meantime, there's a veritable sea of artists that write painstakingly original music right in our backyard that can't get 30 friends in a room on a weekend... For free.
We're not saying everyone needs to start paying close attention to music blogs (like the one you're reading) or explore a (free) site like Spotify or anything like that. But we are saying that it's a real bummer that a guy that talk-sings over other people's tracks, plays watered down country music, and traveled the country with Mitt Romney in the name of "the working class" can fill a room as big as Hard Rock Live's, two nights in a row, and (seriously) offer a DJ set with a $600 per table price tag on New Year's Eve.
Personal Bias: Would rather have Jack White end the concert four songs in than sit through an entire Kid Rock show.