If Kid Rock's 2009 Comerica Park concerts were the culmination of years of hard work and the pinnacle of his storied Detroit career to date, Friday's concert at DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston -- the first of three sold-out shows from Rock and his 10-piece Twisted Brown Trucker outfit -- was a congratulatory victory lap.
A more relaxed, congenial vibe greeted the 2-hour, 20-minute show, which opened promptly at 8:40 p.m. with Rock's standby trademark tune "Bawitdaba" and the familiar greeting "my name is Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid!"But the pyro-heavy show also acted as the debut of four songs from Rock's new album, and saw a reprise of "Times Like These," the hometown anthem that Rock premiered last summer at Comerica Park.
Rock, who repeatedly referred to DTE as Pine Knob -- the only mentions of DTE came alongside acertain four-letter curse word --was loose and playful throughout the show. He was at times very loose, as when he jumped the gun early on his intro to "So Hott." But the sold-out crowd couldn't have cared less and gave Rock with a hero's welcome,showering him with love that was returned by Rock throughout the show.
"It's nice to be back at Pine Knob!" Rock told the audience after an early show "All Summer Long." He then joked that the 15,000 seat Clarkston amphitheatre is an "intimate" venue compared to Comerica Park. "This is like a club date, I guess," he said.
Of the four new songs premiered, "Born Free" -- a chugging, Springsteen-like rocker showed the most promise. The lyrics reference classic Americana scenery -- rivers, canyons, new moons, suns -- and the song builds to arousing singalong chorus of "ohh's" at the end.
Other new songs included "Slow My Roll," a mid-tempo song about slowing down and taking life as it comes; "Rock On," which Rock introduced as a "dark" relationship song and plays like a breakup tune; and "Feels Good to Me," a shuffly rock song with a 1970s FM-radio feel and a sax solo courtesy of Dave McMurray.
"Times Like These," which Rock said was more complete than the version debuted last year at Comerica, was the most well-received of the new songs, in part because of the familiarity from last year and in part because of the hometown themes and the images of Michigan that played along with it on the venue's video screens. The song already feels like a staple of Rock's set, alongside evergreen winners such as "Devil Without a Cause" -- performed Friday in the concourse between the lawn and pavilion -- "Picture,""Cocky" and"Cowboy."
Friday also saw a surprise rendering of "When U Love Someone and "Rock N Roll Jesus" rarity that is seldom played live, and a cover of Jamey Johnson's "In Color" that Rock did alone seated at his piano.He also performed his Uncle Kracker duet "Good to Be Me" with his backup singer Jessica Wagner filling in for Kracker, away on a tour of his own.
Rock shared the stage with two inflatable bottles of Jim Beam Red Stag, which would have felt more like blatant marketing ploys if you didn't get the feeling Rock would have inflatable bottles of Jim Beam on stage with him even if he weren't getting paid to. But they did make you wonder if he was getting paid by the mention each time he name-checked Beam during the show, or when he downed a shot of Red Stag during a brief stint at the turntables.
Rock mentioned several times during the show that this weekend will mark a "last hurrah"before he regroups and hits the road in 2011. If so, Friday was the beginning of a warm goodbye,and something tells us the crowds will be ready for him when he decides to return. Same time next year, perhaps?
SOURCE: Adam Graham / Detroit News Pop Music Writer
Photo Credit: Brandy Baker/ The Detroit News