DAYTON, Ohio — Kid Rock could have recycled the name of his 2000 rarities compilation, The History of Rock, for his current tour. Because that's the only way to describe the two-hour Rock 'n' Roll Pain Train road show, which mixes AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kiss-worthy fireworks, Run-DMC, Aerosmith, caged strippers, Bob Seger, a white grand piano, Grandmaster Flash, slide guitar, country ballads, turntable scratching, Fleetwood Mac and speed metal into one slick, pyrotechnically enhanced package.
From the sparks-flying, stomping riffs of "Bawitdaba" that both opened and closed the show, Rock surveyed his own twisted rock history Thursday night at Hara Arena in front of a sold-out audience of 5,500 metal-sign throwing fans. (see "Kid Rock Engineers A Longer Pain Train Tour"). As a testament to Kid's unique ability to rev up a crowd, some men in the house on the tour's third stop got so jacked up they couldn't decide whether to hug their dates or their buddies, so most did both.
Rock got the show going with his typical bluster, blasting through a stomping-dinosaur version of "You Never Met a Mother----er Quite Like Me," accompanied by a musical nod to Skynyrd's anthemic "Free Bird" and the unfurling of a massive Confederate flag. Say what you will about Rock's penchant for liberally mixing borrowed Southern rock riffs. When the dust clears on the rap-rock phenom, the Detroit boy formerly known as Robert Ritchie clearly has the goods to make them his own.
During "Devil Without a Cause," Rock — sporting his standard uniform of black pants, oversized belt buckle, white wife beater and fedora — shimmied across the stage like a cloned hybrid of rubber-limbed Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and smooth-stepping Reverend Run of Run-DMC. His nine-member Twisted Brown Trucker Band provided its usual thick, hard riffs to accompany Rock's white-boy boogie.
A massive image of late bandmember Joe C. was unfurled as the Truckers segued into AC/DC's "Back in Black"; and a tape of his signature midsong rap was played to thunderous applause. Nothing was finer for the fan in an American-flag bandana and matching muscle shirt than when a 20-foot-tall version of Old Glory tumbled from the rafters during the swampy country ballad "Jackson, Mississippi," one of half a dozen tracks from Rock's new self-titled album. The same guy found the shredding Pantera-worthy speed-metal solo at the end of "American Bad Ass" pretty awesome, too.
Despite his reputation as a less-than-sober singer, Rock momentarily got serious while perched on a stool with his electric guitar to play a dirty Delta blues number, "If I Were President." Grinning only slightly, Rock crooned that, if elected, he'd "make the dirty stank-ass D.C. politicians pay." From the rain of "hell yeah!"s, candidate Rock — bathed in red, white and blue spotlights — could easily have carried the Hara Arena primary that night.
Along with the dual-guitar front line of Kenny Olson and Jason Krause, drummer Stephanie Eulinberg helped keep things tight all night with solid, soulful backing vocals. She complemented Rock's ragged singing on ballads like "Wasting Time," which Kid introduced with a hint of Fleetwood Mac's "Second Hand News."
A 12-minute midshow medley included "Lonely Road of Faith," his recent hit cover of Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin' Love" and thrash-metal versions of "Fist of Rage" and "I Am the Bullgod." The rapper next went totally Vegas, rising up from below the stage behind a white grand piano to show off his sensitive side with the lonely road weeper, "Cold and Empty."
Rock proved himself more than just a Southern-rock-lovin' rapper who can play a bit of guitar and piano when he dipped into his pre-fame days for "My Name Is Rock" from 1996's Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp. While the band jammed behind him, Rock cut it up on the turntables, borrowed Olson's guitar for some ZZ Top blues licks mixed with "Smoke on the Water" and dashed up the back riser to lay down funky Hammond organ runs. He strapped on an acoustic slide guitar for more bluesy jamming, then wrapped up his showstopper display with the ultimate classic-rock cliché, a gratuitous drum solo.
Rock got everyone in the house — his demo embraces families with pre-teen children, young couples and grandmothers — to sing along to his 2002 hit duet with Sheryl Crow, "Picture," almost as loudly as they shouted the words to the boot-scootin' rap tune "Cowboy." And only Rock and his million-dollar bar band could get away with following it with a straight take on "The Dukes of Hazzard" theme song, one of several points during the night when the crowd pulled off the arena-rock trifecta: flicking Bics, flipping birds and flashing metal salutes.
By the time the giant disco ball was lit and Rock poured out his sad-sack ode to loneliness, "Only God Knows Why," the boys down front were damn near tears, bumping fists, slapping each other hard on the back and grabbing their girls as they sang along. Indeed, who else knows why the Top Dog has gone from snot-nosed rapper with a rock fascination to a hip-hop legend in the making in less than a decade?
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.