SAGINAW, Michigan Kid Rock kicked off his Cocky tour Friday night in his true white-trash-lovin' form.
As his band, Twisted Brown Trucker, played the "Wizard of Oz"-sampled "Trucker Anthem," Kid Rock, wrapped in a white, full-length fur coat, rose from behind a silver Airstream trailer from which lines of laundry were hung. Pink flamingos, scantily clad dancers in cages and a mailbox made up the trailer's front yard. Midway through the show, a Confederate flag unfurled behind the rap-rocker's name in lights. Neon beer signs book-ended the Airstream. Call it blue-collar ambiance at its finest.
The two-and-a-half-hour show at the 5,000-plus capacity sold-out Wendler Arena continued where his last tour left off. Many of the gimmicks, including the Vegas-style "Kid Rock" in lights, and Rock's turn on each of the instruments, were hand-me-downs from the American Bad Ass Tour of 2000. This time, though, new songs and an inordinate number of covers filled the set, and fans got an eye-full of his girlfriend, actress Pamela Anderson, who jiggled near the soundboard on the main floor.
And it was an explosive performance. Before "Trucker Anthem" ended, drummer Stefanie Eulinberg played atop a hydraulic lift, and there was enough pyro to put Kiss to shame. Where could it go from there?
The band kept the momentum alive as it immediately rolled into "Forever," the first single from Cocky. As the audience came down from that one-two punch, spotlights scanning the arena eventually landed on Rock, who managed to sneak into the middle of the venue. Surrounded by bodyguards and sheriff's deputies, Rock performed "Where U At Rock" as he waded through the crowd, which spilled onto the walkway.
"I wanted to give the party to the people in the back," Rock said breathlessly upon returning to the stage. "I don't mean to sound corny, but you look good, Saginaw."
Confetti rained down after Rock issued a belated welcome with the appropriately titled "Welcome 2 the Party."
The party had its melancholy notes as well. During "Devil Without a Cause," Rock paid tribute to sidekick rapper Joe C., who died in 2000 from complications of celiac disease. Fans responded fervently when a giant poster of Joe C. unfurled from the rafters as taped vocals of the diminutive rapper's most well-known contribution emanated from the speakers: "I'm a freak ho call me sick/ Three-foot-nine with a 10-foot di--."
Contrary to his cocky reputation, Rock was clearly suffering from a case of opening-night jitters. He seemed tentative at times, even sharing his feelings about an hour into the performance.
"This is the first concert of the tour. We appreciate you spending your hard-earned money to come to see us. We've been rehearsing all week and we still don't know how to introduce this song."
He spoke of throwing money "down the toilet" and other mistakes he had made in his life. Rock described how he would make amends for his debauchery when he approaches St. Peter at the gates to heaven.
"Why should I let you in?" Rock, playing the role of St. Peter, asked.
"I can guarantee one thing if you let me in here. Because you never met a motherf---er quite like me," the bullgod responded, sending the crowd into ravenous applause as he began the song "You Never Met a Motherf---er Quite Like Me."
It wasn't the only time Rock shared his discontent. A few songs later, he described the Saginaw date as "the rawest show on the tour." "This is the one where we work out the kinks," he said before launching into "Lonely Road of Faith."
There really was no reason for Rock to be nervous. The audience, which was peppered with folks wearing automotive industry-related clothing, received him warmly. Guitarists Kenny Olson and Jason Krause provided simmering dual axe works, as keyboard and harmonica player Jimmie Bones added a blues edge to the show. Several times, Rock took to the front of the stage to raise his arms and drop them like a composer, showing the TBT's ability to stop on a dime. Rock showed off his own musicianship with deft guitar playing and a sampling of his "new toy," a steel guitar, during the bluesy "Baby Come Home."
The set list was a blend of his breakthrough album, 1998's Devil Without a Cause, and the latest, Cocky, as well as "old-school jams" from 1992's The Polyfuze Method. A notable omission: "I Am the Bullgod" from Devil Without a Cause. Covers of songs by AC/DC and others filled in as bridges to a handful of songs. On the patriotic tip, he segued from "American Bad Ass" to "America the Beautiful." Rock made up for the Confederate flag presence by ending "America the Beautiful" with an American flag backdrop. Donning the familiar black hat and white T-shirt, Rock struck an equally familiar stance after many of the tunes legs apart, left hand grabbing near his left pocket.
He wrapped up his performance by honoring contributions to music by fellow Michiganders Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, the Supremes, Grand Funk Railroad, MC5 and Eminem, who provided a fitting conclusion to the show. Snippets of "My Name Is" led to Rock's standard proclamation: "My name is Kid," the beginning of "Bawitdaba."
There was really no need to do that. After all, working-class Michigan is a place where everyone knows his name.
Read about all of the shows we've recently covered in Tour Reports.