Classifying Kid Rock's music is getting pretty difficult these days.
The man once known for his raucous and profanity-laced tracks has put in some solid hours developing the full range of his musicianship, especially as of late with the new release of "Born Free." With this added complexity comes a whole host of new hyphenated genre prefixes just to get a finger on the pulse of his new direction.
Of course, the hard rock and wild spirit are still very much there – something Rock demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt Sunday night. But his Summerfest gig helped branch off – even if just a little – from the brash trailer park image that launched his career.
Fans of Rock will tell you that his musical skill is nothing new. He's infused tracks with jazz and other genres in the past, and he's been showing off his more sensitive side for a while, most notably in 2001's hit single "Picture," which features collaborator and current tour mate Sheryl Crow. While Crow also plays a part in Kid Rock's newest album and was practically co-billed for the night's show, her set remained separate (following openers LeRoy Powell and The Messengers) and allowed Rock to do what he does best – shake things up.
Suitable for his aptly named "Born Free" tour, which also marks his 40th birthday year, Rock introduced his set with a video montage of "The History of Rock." The introduction chronicled his live to a soundtrack mash-up of popular rock of the era and Rock's own chart-toppers.
This gave way to the Amp-shaking opener "American Bad Ass," followed up by a laundry list of his driving rap/rock hits, including the new "God Bless Saturday," as well as "Motherf*cker Quite Like Me," "Slow My Roll" and a country-style remix of "Cowboy."
Between the opening lineup and the crowd's thunderous reception, the sound of the fireworks going off along the lakefront was completely drowned out. Not one to let his fans miss out on the visuals, Rock set off fireworks of his own throughout the night with an impressively lighted multi-tiered bar stage, smoke, lasers and ample pyrotechnics positioned in front of two American flags. And, because it's Kid Rock, the setup also regularly featured bikini-clad dancers draped around two poles built onto the stage platform.
With a good foundation of ear-catching crowd-pleasers soon under his belt, Rock took the opportunity to showcase his new sound with a soulful solo performance of "Care," one of a good number of tracks that put him behind the piano keys that night.
The pattern continued throughout the evening as Rock fired up another mini-set of blazing rap/rock favorites, only to again dial it back to showcase the newer, more intimate songwriter flavor of "Born Free" tracks like "Flyin' High" and "Purple Sky," as well as older tunes like "Only God Knows Why."
Kid Rock doesn't always receive credit for his musical ability, but if there's one thing he's good at, it's showmanship. In an effort to keep both old and new fans happy (and possibly help bridge the gap between his wild old tracks and more lyrical new flavor), Rock proved his versatility in both musical and theatrical ability with a mid-set breakdown and cover of Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever."
After leading the crowd in a men-versus-women "Kid Rock" chanting match, the man himself took to the turntables to kick off the unique showcase. He then flowed into a guitar solo, complete with voice modulator a la Peter Frampton, followed by a stop behind the drum set to literally pound out the cover.
The vibe continued as Kid Rock brought Sheryl Crow back to the stage for a funky rendition of "Love the One You're With." She stayed on for "Picture," which also included a little fun (and a less-than-flattering picture of the headliner on the big screen) at Rock's expense.
The night's main set ended predictably with one last song to rile up the crowd: Rock's radio smash "Bawitdaba." The three-song encore, however, did an excellent job of summing up the set and Kid Rock's own musical diversity.
It started off with a funky version of "All Summer Long," the tune famous for sampling the guitar run from Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." Rock then returned to the piano for "Only God Knows Why," and rounded it out with a finale performance of "Born Free," which he finished standing on top of the piano and in front of a full-stage backdrop of an American flag.
SOURCE: Renee Lorenz / OnMilwaukee.com