By GARY GRAFF
Journal Register News Service
INDEPENDENCE TWP. -- The most rhetorical question at a Kid Rock concert, especially one in the metro Detroit area, may be "Are you having a good time?"
Rock did ask it, however, as he played the first of four homecoming shows at the DTE Energy Music Theatre on Saturday night. But he knew the answer, and the abundantly rowdy, sold-out and rain-soaked crowd gave just the kind of affirmative response he expected.
And why not? The Clarkston-based Rock (aka Bob Ritchie) has dubbed himself a "Son of Detroit," and while he may sell records and score hits around the world, there's no place that gets him better than here. It's the place he writes about and that's inspired the songs and characters from his eight albums, from "the heroes at the methadone clinic" to the sand bars and campfires he sings about in "All Summer Long," the current hit from his latest album, the platinum-certified "Rock N Roll Jesus."
So when Rock comes home it's a party -- or, as hype man Paradime put it, "fish in a barrel" -- and Saturday's return of his Rock N Roll Revival Tour set his most ambitious homestand off to a stellar start. Road-sharpened after eight months of live dates, Rock and arguably the strongest incarnation of his Twisted Brown Trucker Band roared through a two-hour celebration that also managed to be different than the February shows they played at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena.
The concert actually hewed closer to the flow of older Rock shows. There was no intermission this time and just one guest -- Rev. Run, who lit up the amphitheater by dueting with Rock on a 15-minute medley of Run-DMC hits and then joining later for a quick romp through the spiritual "This Little Light of Mine." Saturday's show also saw the return of some proven crowd-pleasers, such as the scrim featuring the late Joe C during "Devil Without a Cause" and Rock's return to playing a variety of instruments (guitar, drums and turntable) while vamping through "3 Sheets to the Wind." "Cowboy," meanwhile, was once again preceded by a bit of the Allman Brothers Band's "Midnight Rider" and broke into a mid-song snippet of Waylon Jennings' "Theme From the Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol' Boys)."
Rock and company gave "Rock N Roll Jesus" it's due, too, lacing a half-dozen of the album's songs into the show -- from the irreverently spiritual "Amen" to grinding rockers such as "So Hott," "Lowlife (Living the Highlife)" and the title track. He touched on his biggest hits, including "Picture," "American Bad Ass," "Only God Knows Why" and "Bawitdaba" and offered up a couple of surprise covers -- Martha & the Vandellas' Motown classic "Dancing in the Street" and David Allen Coe's cheerfully crude "F*** You One More Time," which preceded Rock's somewhat cleaner thematic kissin' cousin "Half Your Age."
And as the pyrotechnics went off, the confetti rained from above and an American flag backdrop unfurled during "Bawitdaba," Rock raised his arms in well-deserved triumph for a knockout punk of a show that maintained his status as a favorite son of Detroit.
Former Twisted Brown Trucker member and longtime Rock friend Uncle Kracker opened Saturday's show with a 40-minute set showcasing his own hits -- including "Follow Me" and his cover of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" -- as well as a rendition of "When the Sun Goes Down," his duet with Kenny Chesney, and "Smile," which is slated to be the first single from a new album that's due this fall.
Kid Rock & Twisted Brown Trucker with special guest Rev. Run and Uncle Kracker perform on Tuesday and Friday at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $55 pavilion, $29 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.