The Kid Rock who played Scotiabank Place on Tuesday was a much different creature than the Kid Rock who played Bluesfest six years ago. Back then, his show was a non-stop party that encouraged new levels of rowdiness. Tuesday was a party, too, but there were times when he reined it in, showing some vulnerability, of all things, and maybe a shred of decency.
Hard to imagine, but it seems that Kid Rock is growing up. The former Bob Ritchie did turn 40 this year, a milestone that must be tough for a guy who still calls himself Kid. But he wore it well during an action-packed concert, mixing the pyro and scantily clad dancers with some old-fashioned storytelling and actual crooning. The artist was focused and coherent, the centre of a shindig that held plenty of entertainment value, despite the disappointing turnout. Fewer than 5,000 people bought tickets for the show, leaving Rock to face a large swath of unsold seats at the back of the lower-level stands.
However, in keeping with the larger-than-life personality, nothing could shrink this ego. The show started with a video montage of Ritchie’s career, including sales figures, under the heading 40 Years of Rock. Then the flags came out, both Canadian and U.S., the flames began blazing and the lean, stringy-haired performer strutted down the catwalk in baggy jeans, brown leather jacket and his trademark hat pulled low.
On a stage designed to look like a Wild West saloon, American Badass kicked off the party, followed by another good-time anthem, Saturday. Harmonica, country guitar licks, some tasty saxophone, backing vocalists, DJs and plenty of percussion from Rock’s excellent band boosted the musicality of the songs, to the point that the artistry surpassed the raunch. Sure, the exotic dancers were part of the show, wiggling against poles on each side of the stage, but they were at the back and only came out for a couple of songs.
Slow My Roll was the first song of the night to show Ritchie’s sensitive side. Surprisingly, he also included the song Care, performing it on piano. As he expressed his vulnerability in lines like “I feel so helpless and confused,” fans either held their cellphones up or headed out to the bar. Later in the show, during a tender acoustic rendition of Picture, Beavis and Butthead suddenly appeared on the big screen to mock Kid Rock, advising him to change his name to Kid Soft Rock.
The sense of humour was refreshing. Another highlight was the lawn chair bit, when Rock sat back in a folding chair, talked about importance of family and friends and then sang Flyin’ High in a voice that was strong and fairly musical.
Of course, the hits made the biggest impact. Cowboy, Bawitdaba and All Summer, to name a few, got the crowd on their feet, fists pumping along as Ritchie spat out the lyrics with perfect timing. As a finale, Ritchie sang his guts out on an elevating piano, and Only God segued into Born Free, leaving the audience on a high.
The Trews’ Colin MacDonald celebrated his 33rd birthday on stage, with his band, opening for Kid Rock. “Couldn’t think of a better place to spend it,” he said to the crowd earnestly, despite the fact that no one really sang happy birthday to him, even after an onscreen prompt.
No matter. It was the band’s last show with Kid Rock, they had a generous time slot to fill and they made the most of it. The Antigonish-bred rockers, who are no longer skinny and long-haired, delivered a solid set of guitar-driven rock that impressed the Kid Rock fans with its power and volume. “Wanna get drunk and stoned with us tonight, Ottawa?” MacDonald demanded, further endearing the band to the party-hearty audience.
There were a couple of new songs with country leanings in the set that seemed to fit right in with the patriotic spirit of the night. Of those, the most memorable was Highway of Heroes, which paid tribute to the stretch of Highway 401 between Trenton and Toronto in a harmony-rich ballad.
While it was a chance to appreciate the voices of the brothers who form the core of the band, their usual form of expression was also well represented in the screaming guitars and wailing vocals of songs like Not Ready to Go, Tired of Waiting and Poor Ol’ Broken-Hearted Me. They also earned a tip of the hat from Rock at the end of the night: “Nice kids, great musicians, love their stuff, man,” he told the crowd. “You should be proud of them.”
SOURCE: Lynn Saxberg / Ottawa Citizen