Kid Rock kicked Country Thunder's family-friendly mantra in the teeth Saturday night - and it wasn't just the free-flowing f-bombs.
It happened about two-thirds into his 90-minute festival-closing concert, when he and his drummer, Stefanie Eulinberg, exchanged post-break-up scenarios. His replacement girlfriend was more accommodating - that's the family-friendly version; hers was more endowed, only she didn't phrase it that way.
It doesn't end there. The pair took their I'm-better- off-without-you battle to the audience, enticing the men to shout out Rock's point of view, the women to echo Eulinberg's. Needless to say, this was definitely vocabulary that hasn't been uttered at a Country Thunder festival in the 11 years I've covered it.
But don't dismiss Kid Rock as being out of place in a country festival. His show was not the first time this weekend we've heard rap; Neal McCoy opened the festival Wednesday with his decidedly more family-friendly "Beverly Hillbillies Rap" and Big Kenny laid down some hick-hop in his concert earlier Saturday.
It also was not the first time we heard crunchy rock guitars - Keith Urban on Friday went on long scorching rants that were worthy of a rock arena.
But it was the first time we've seen someone with such solid rap-rock credentials headline a show that earlier in the day hosted neo-traditionalist Chris Young and rebel outlaw country king Willie Nelson. Was Kid Rock, whose band included a sax player, a guy beating on bongos and a pair of easy-on-the-eyes dancers in impossibly high-heeled boots. Out of place? Not in the least.
You all came here to hear good music, he told the audience. And his definition of good music encompasses the spectrum of American pop, from R&B to funk and country.
So what started out as a raucous rock show quickly segued into a country throwdown, complete with a change of hatwear; Rock slapped on a straw cowboy hat to match the majority of his cowboy-hat-wearing audience.
Then he lit into sizzling countrified rock odes and soaring ballads done Kid Rock-style - an f-bomb here, an off-color, sexually charged phrase there. Sorry to the kids, he apologized at one point.
He sang about being a cowboy, searching for God and his penchant for being more of a low life than a respectable man. That last one, he noted, was for the hillbillies among the crowd of 16,000, and judging from their applause, they were well-represented.
What made Kid Rock's show work in a country setting, though, had more to do with energy and acceptance. The audience, well aware of the Detroit rocker and his legendary and storied past, accepted from the first wailing guitar strain what was in store. They knew he would not wax on about open prairies and the values of home life.
To satisfy those bent on experiencing country in every show, he tossed in a cover of David Alan Coe's "You Don't Even Call Me By My Name."
SOURCE: Cathalena E. Burch of Arizona Daily Star
Photo Credit: Chris Braden of Country Thunder Pix and Local Florence photographer Sean Higgins