Turns out, Kid Rock wants to be a uniter. He even provided a pretty good solution for what might bring America together during his sold-out concert Saturday night at Treasure Island Casino’s new amphitheater.
The rabble-rouser Detroit rocker enlisted last year’s single “American Rock ’n’ Roll” — not to be confused with his other songs “American Bad Ass” and “Rock ’n’ Roll Jesus” — for the centerpiece to his 1¾-hour performance. As images of Guns N’ Roses, Tom Petty, Bob Seger, Metallica and a dozen other U.S. rock acts scrolled by on the video screen (not one woman in the bunch, but who’s counting), he added a few improvised lines.
“Our country is divided,” lamented the real-life Bob Ritchie, 47, “but I know one thing can bring us together.”
That thing, of course, was good ol’ American rock ’n’ roll. He even named his 2018 tour the Red-Blooded Rock ’n’ Roll Redneck Extravaganza to sell that idea, and to clue in anybody still in the dark about his “red”-ness.
To his credit, the Kid’s brand of rock is indeed uniquely American, with elements of hip-hop and country music rolled into his macho, chest-beating songs about how awesome this nation and its hardworking people and its greatest all-time performer and lover, Kid Rock, all are.
Problem is, his concerts don’t exactly bring a diverse bunch of people together. The biggest display of diversity on Saturday night may have been the colors of the 4x4s and souped-up muscle cars in the field next to the amphitheater.
What’s more, Kid Rock’s overwhelmingly formulaic, scripted, Ford Truck TV commercial brand of rock ’n’ roll is itself divisive. And so are his politics, which found him mouthing plans to run a U.S. Senate race this year — a joke, he says now — and selling T-shirts after the 2016 presidential election that showed Minnesota as part of a nation he dubbed “Dumb[bleep]istan.”
All those schismatic stunts did nothing to lessen the draw for his latest Minnesota visit, equal to an arena gig with 16,500 attendees.
It was the first sold-out show at Treasure Island’s new, permanent outdoor venue, and the facility itself came off fairly well. The long security lines from opening night with ZZ Top were mostly remedied, and organizers wisely added a preshow party including “Kid Rock-araoke” to lessen traffic congestion.
It helped that very few concertgoers appeared to be in any hurry get there for opener Uncle Kracker. The fellow Detroit native has nearly completed his full transformation from a funky-dude rocker into a bro-country act, and it’s tiresome. It says a lot that the most rocking song in his 45-minute set was a cover of Steve Miller’s “Rock’n Me” that sounded even more stoned-out languid than the original.
Kid Rock, on the other, still blends all his musical influences into his live sets. He made sure the crowd knew every time he was about to change up his styles, too.
He’s such an overly literal, hamfisted performer, he provided costume changes to cue fans where he was headed musically. He took the stage in a fur coat to underline the pimped-out cockiness in the opening songs “Greatest Show on Earth” and “You Never Met a Mother [Bleeper] Quite Like Me” (so much for humble beginnings).
A few songs later, Mr. Rock changed into a goofy denim-on-denim get-up — who knew they made muscle jean shirts? — to saddle up for “Cowboy.” Then out came the LL Cool J-throwback Adidas tracksuit, gold chain and even an accessory boombox to set up “Welcome 2 the Party.”
Those older rap-heavy tunes proved that Kid Rock’s music actually has gotten better over the years. “Welcome 2” and “Cocky” and were filled with inane junior-high-playground rhymes (“I’m the illest fool / cooler than water in a swimming pool”). His heaviest rock songs also came off halfhearted and dated in a second-rate Limp Bizkit sort of way, too, including the big encore finale “Bawitdaba.”
The Kid might do well just going more full-bore country like Kracker. His twangy highlights included “American Rock ’n’ Roll” — clearly intended to land on FM country radio stations over the fading rock stations the song celebrates — and his popular Sheryl Crow duet, “Picture.”
The Twin Cities’ own Shannon Curfman, a member of Kid Rock’s band since 2010, filled Crow’s parts in “Picture” with a bluesier edge. Both hers and drummer Stefanie Eulinberg’s powerful performances provided a nice contrast to the pole-straddling antics of the two women dancers, which seemed a little too Neanderthalic even for this show.
Mr. Rock took a high road just before the encore, playing a video that celebrated U.S. military members and then dropping a giant U.S. flag as the backdrop for “Born Free.” He’s still proud to be an American, and that’s indeed a nice, unifying message. If only he still weren’t so darn proud to be Kid Rock.