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Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City (Thursday, Sept. 25)
Funny thing: Bob Ritchie avoided the family business of auto sales in Detroit, but as Kid Rock he’s a super-salesman who’ll get you into all sorts of musical vehicles — and he’ll throw in those extras at no charge.
Thursday’s show at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City was a multigenre blitz: thunderous rap-rock, Southern rock, classic rock, country music and old school hip-hop.
Dressed in white except for his trademark black fedora and backed by his 10-member Twisted Brown Trucker Band, Rock kicked off with the backbeat bash of “Rock N Roll Jesus.” That’s the Kiss-meets-Bob Seger title track from his album that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 almost a year ago and has been in the top 10 for the past three months after falling as low as No. 82 in April. Like the rest of his recordings, it still isn’t available on iTunes. Brilliant.
The set included the boisterous bravado of “You Never Met a Motherf***er Quite Like Me” — his best-selling T-shirt, judging from the crowd — and John Eddie’s “Low Life,” poking fun at his image as the king of stripper-loving white trash slimeball excess.
Early on, he pulled out his smash hit “All Summer Long,” a breezy nostalgic glide borrowing from Warren Zevon and Lynyrd Skynyrd to become “Werewolves of Sweet Home Alabama.” And as he pointed out, the music was all live, “no Pro Tools up here.”
A few detours actually found him thinking more deeply, heading into Mellencamp heartland territory with “Amen,” a song about tolerance and understanding. More simple-minded, however, was the flag-waving “Only God Knows Why,” which needed a montage of soldiers in Iraq and other armed forces images to sell the message.
The crowd roared as Rock brought out Rev Run for a medley of Run-D.M.C.’s ’80s classics that included “Rock Box,” “It’s Tricky” and “King of Rock,” capped by a blowout “Walk This Way.”
The main show could’ve ended there, but instead he shifted gears for the country crossover/pop ballad “Picture,” the Sheryl Crow part filled in by 12-year-old up-and-comer Sacha Edwards, a Miley in the making. “She’s a pistol, ain’t she?” Rock said like a proud uncle.
After his long-standing shtick where he scratched on the turntables, played electric guitar (a snatch of ZZ Top’s “La Grange”) and hit the drums for a slice of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever,” the crunch and bluster continued on with the blatant sex lust of “Too Hott” and his onomatopoeia word scramble “Bawitdaba.”
Leaving the limiting confines of rap-metal a few years ago to successfully trounce over other musical pastures was a sign of how smart Kid Rock really is. If it wasn’t for all the swear words and sex, the concert would’ve been almost a family show. And some people brought their kids anyway.
Despite his tabloid clippings, he’s no mere party-pimp good’ ol boy dolt; he just plays one onstage — and sometimes in videos — all the way to the bank.
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