NEW YORK -- At first glance, Kid Rock does not appear to be the
most complex of artists.
The Detroit-based rap-rocker's show at the Bowery Ballroom here Wednesday
night was performed under a large, brightly lit sign bearing his name
and a hand with its middle finger upraised -- a gesture that Kid Rock
himself appropriated more than a dozen times during the show.
A good part of his set was dedicated to simple-minded odes to misogyny,
misanthropy and mayhem, including "Balls in Your Mouth" and "Fuck Off."
But by the end of the night, the tall, lanky Michigan native (born Bob
Ritchie), who does his best to rap like a circa-1986, New York old-schooler,
revealed himself to be more than a one-dimensional musical cartoon -- even
if some fans didn't seem to demand more than that.
"Kid Rock rocks -- what more could you possibly say?" Jeff Bonna, 27,
of Brooklyn, N.Y., said after the show.
Kid Rock -- in a loose white T-shirt, red, pimp-style hat with a feather
and red leather pants -- took the stage around 11 p.m., as samples from
his own records, Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" and the movie "Goodfellas"
echoed through the club. He and his band, Twisted Brown Trucker, kicked
in with the title track of Devil Without a Cause (1998), his
Like many of his songs,
(RealAudio excerpt) found Kid Rock rapping over his band's heavy-metal
groove, which briefly incorporated a riff from AC/DC's "Back in Black" -- the
first of the evening's many homages to classic rock.
Joe C., a diminutive rapper who normally performs with the band, wasn't
at the show, but during "Devil Without a Cause" Kid Rock brought out
another featured guest -- a well-toned young woman whom he identified as
a porn star. The crowd, which included quite a few women, cheered as
the woman shimmied provocatively on the side of the stage, wearing a
sparkly, silver thong bikini.
The woman continued to dance as Rock and his band played "3 Sheets to
the Wind (What's My Name)" from his obscure, 1992 album, The Polyfuze
Method, and segued into his recent hit,
Throughout the show, the band, which included two guitarists, a DJ, bassist,
drummer and organist, added unexpectedly rootsy touches -- a soulful
organ lick here, a guitar fill there -- to what otherwise might have
been generic, late-'90s rap-metal grooves.
Kid Rock introduced the next song, "Balls in Your Mouth" -- another
track from The Polyfuze Method -- by saying that although he
sings about "bitches and hos," he doesn't "hate anyone in this world."
"I'm into trailer parks and top-shelf liquor," he said, pausing to call
Monica Lewinsky a "ho" and President Bill Clinton a "pimp."
One woman left in apparent disgust, but most of the females in the
audience didn't seem to mind Rock's less than politically correct stance.
"I don't pay attention to it," Rae Ann Derosse, a 23-year-old from Long Island, N.Y., said.
A less provocative song, "My Name is ROCK," from Early Mornin'
Stoned Pimp (1996), turned into a show-stopping, genre-hopping set
After Twisted Brown Trucker lead guitarist Kenny Olson played a squealing,
'80s-style solo, Rock displaced his DJ at the turntables and played a
funky, scratching break. Then he appropriated Olson's guitar -- which
Olson was still wearing -- and played riffs from ZZ Top's "La Grange"
and Aerosmith's "Walk This Way." Rock ended the song by taking over the
drum kit, clumsily bashing out arena-rock fills like a high-schooler
practicing in a suburban basement.
After a few more rap-metal songs, including "Fist of Rage" and "Wax the
Booty," Kid Rock donned a guitar and began to shift gears with "Cowboy,"
which added rockabilly and country to his trademark sound.
After a speech about "being proud of where you come from," Kid Rock led
the band in a medley of Michigan hard-rock classics. He did his best to
actually sing the MC5's "Sister Anne," Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an
American Band," Bob Seger's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" and Ted Nugent's
"Stranglehold." Finally, he did the chorus of fellow Detroit rapper Eminem's inescapable "My Name Is."
Rock ended that bit by shouting "My name is Kid Rock," as the band began
his current hit, "Bawitdaba," churning up a mosh pit that had grown
quiet during the medley. Much stagediving ensued.
Many of the same fans lifted lighters into the air, seemingly without
irony, when Kid Rock sat down with a guitar and began the pained,
surprisingly melodic and soulful ballad "Only God Knows Why," which
found him repeating the line "take me to the river" with as
much sincerity and grit as he could muster.
After leaving the stage, Kid Rock and band returned to familiar
territory with the harsh "Fuck Off," which briefly segued into a riff
from Black Sabbath's "Iron Man." In the middle of the song, in a gesture
of solidarity with the star, many fans held out their hands, middle
fingers raised high.
Another Detroit group, the modern-rock band Sponge, was in the audience.
Sponge lead singer Vinnie Dombroski said he and his bandmates "loved"
Kid Rock's music, which differs wildly from their pop-rock sound.
"Detroit's so diverse, man," Dombroski said. "It's all part of the whole.
I think it's wonderful that [Rock is] getting all this attention. He's
been at it a long time."