Kid Rock, Jamey Johnson Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion July 19, 2013
I really never did think that I'd ever find myself at a Kid Rock show. I still am not sure what I got myself into Friday night -- aurally, visually or emotionally.
What I do know is that somewhere among all of the craziness, Kid Rock seemed to pull off a top-notch performance without a hitch, and had no trouble entertaining the sold-out Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion crowd at for a solid hour and a half.
While it was actually a very entertaining, and Kid Rock had a rock-star presence that commanded the stage from start to finish, it was quite the interesting night. I met some of the most intriguing people, both bad and good, and experienced events at a concert that I've never experienced at any other show ever in my life.
The night was billed as "The Best Night Ever," but heading into the show I could tell you that that was an extreme overstatement. I'm sure for many it was the best night they've had in some time, but best night ever? Really? Kid Rock at the Pavilion? Better than your wedding or the birth of your first child? Better than the first time you got drunk with your buddies? Better than the first time you got laid? Sorry, Kid Rock. You're wrong.
Opener Jamey Johnson, played a pretty awesome set of originals and covers that fit on a Texas stage better than either of the other bands on the bill (Uncle Kracker's crew also opened, but due to Houston traffic, were missed). Johnson was well-received by the lot of the folks who weren't out filling up on the tour-special $4 domestic drafts.
His set's slow-paced, relaxed vibe would have fit much better at smaller venue like Fitz or House of Blues. Still, though, the crowd was very enthusiastic, specifically during his last few songs which included covers of Johnny Cash's "Big River" and the traditional, fitting "Yellow Rose of Texas."
This is where things got interesting.
I went down to the concessions to get a beer, and while waiting in line I met a fellow by the name of Kelly (ey?). Kelly looked like he belonged at a Kid Rock concert - a dude of about 45 rocking a Korn T-shirt three sizes too big for him. He came up and grabbed me by the shoulders and introduced himself to me as heartily as possible, like he most likely had done to at least 15 strangers by that time of the night.
He asked why, other than the Kid Rock show, that I was there. Feeding him the "I'm a writer and photographer for the Houston Press" line, I figured that might be the end of the conversation. Instead, Kelley asked, "Are you into Poe?" Not expecting that twist, I swiftly answered yes.
He turned to me, and rattled off an eight-line poem, assumedly an Edgar Allan ditty. Somewhat confused on where the conversation had went, a bemused smile came across my face. Thankfully, his beer line moved forward and that was the end of our talk, because I didn't have any type of response. Never was I expecting a literary conversation by a country-ass dude with and oversized Korn shirt at a Kid Rock concert. I'm so glad that happened.
After about ten more random interactions with complete strangers, it was finally time for Kid Rock. As the crowd awaited his arrival to stage, a giant $20 bill replica with "Made in Detroit" emblazoned on it and a giant Kid Rock signature just below dropped from the rafters and got everyone awaiting hyped. Meanwhile, three different advertisements for Jim Beam Devil's Cut hit the big screens.
This was a first for me -- I've never seen actual commercials during a live concert. It was actually kind of mind-blowing, but I didn't think about it too much and awaited Kid Rock's arrival to the stage.
After a countdown on the screens, a silhouette of Kid Rock, formally known as Robert "Bob" Ritchie, appeared behind the giant twenty as screams from the many women in the audience were the only sounds audible. The sheet dropped, revealing Rock and his larger-than-life self, decked head to toe in a white jumpsuit with the name "Bobby Shazam" sewed into the back.
Hiding behind a pair of aviators, and in his trademark derby cap, Rock and his band ripped into an on-point version of "Devil Without a Cause" from the multi-platinum album of the same name. I'm not going to lie, my knowledge of Kid Rock before putting in my pre-show research was 85 percent Devil Without a Cause, 15 percent his latter-day radio hits. So from the get-go, I was pretty stoked.
After heading back to my seat from the photography portion of my evening, Rock's huge hit "American Badass" started to the extreme delight of the entire crowd. Devil horns were common when scanning the audience, and a real sense of pride for our country was also quite evident. I love my country as much as the next guy, but I felt like a foreigner at a Fourth of July party compared to pretty much everyone there.
"Wasting Time" seemed to be a fan favorite; that or the booze was kicking in and everyone would have enjoyed any song they heard at that point. After a brief piano intro where Kid Rock showed off his instrumental chops, one of his most popular songs, "Cowboy," started with that familiar harmonica intro we all know and love (or love to hate). It was definitely a peak in the night, but what came next I don't think anyone could've expected.
Kid Rock, with a bright spotlight on only him and the rest of the band in darkness, started to thank the people that made the cheaper-than-normal night possible. "I want to thank Jimmy John's, I want to thank Harley Davidson, and most of all I'd like to thank Jim Beam who got me through a few rough times in my life."
Just then, the spotlight disappeared, and a minute-and-a-half long commercial for Jim Beam and Harley Davidson hit the big screens on either side of the stage. I thought the pre-show commercials were a bit odd, but right smack dab in the middle of the show?
It was the craziest thing I have ever seen. At what point do you sell out so much that you're actually selling advertisements to your live concert? The sad part was that, during the video, it might have been the loudest the crowd yelled all night.
I was so confused by what was happening that I actually had to take a seat. Thinking it was all over, after the commercial had finished, the stage lights came back on and Kid Rock was sitting at a camouflaged piano with the Mossy Oak emblem branded on the side.
Sandwiches, motorcycles, whiskey and hunting apparel. All in five minutes. It was like watching CMT during a commercial break. A very odd moment in time, indeed. Finally, the show picked back up when Kid Rock went to the DJ booth to show off his skills on yet another instrument.
After spinning records for a while, which actually sounded pretty great, he stepped up on the mixer and started spinning between his legs. With a hand still on the decks, he mouthed a cigar, lit it, poured himself a glass of whiskey (Jim Beam Devil's Cut, of course), and took a big sip. Pretty impressive if you ask me.
The set ended with a Southern-rock take on "Only God Knows Why" from DWAC, and a Texas-sized version of his most recent radio-rocker, "Born Free." The crowd completely lost it when a giant Texas flag dropped from the rafters behind the band in the middle of the tune. At that point, Rock had the entire crowd in the palm of his hands. He is really good at owning his audience, which was apparent from the first seconds of the set.
After a brief pause, Rock came back to the stage with only an acoustic guitar and started into his Sheryl Crow collab "Picture" now featuring his backup vocalist Shannon Curfman in Crow's role. It was a pretty standard version of the tune, but a good way to start the encore.
Next came "All Summer Long," in which Rock takes Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" and kind of bastardizes it by adding his own version of "Sweet Home Alabama" over the top. You shan't mess with Zevon or Skynyrd, man. Finally, Rock's first major hit, "Bawitaba," closed out the night to a frenzy of hoots and hollers and a whole bunch of pyrotechnics.
I've never been a huge Kid Rock fan, but I can see why people do like him and attend his concerts. He puts on a great live performance, but at what point is it too much? Did Kid Rock sell his soul to the corporate devil?
It was a really cool thing for him to do what he did by offering cheap tickets, merch and concessions at all of his shows, but it obviously, thanks to the many sponsors, didn't put a dent in his own pocketbook.
I'm still a bit confused by the whole deal, and am not really sure deep down that Kid Rock was doing it for his fans, but rather to make a buck and help Jim Beam sell a couple bottles of whiskey.
Whatever it was, it worked, and everyone in attendance ate it up.
Personal Bias: I dug Devil Without a Cause when it first came out, but that was 15 years ago. Fifteen years is a really long time.
The Crowd: A salt shaker of the greater Houston area's classiest and trashiest.
Overheard In the Crowd: Some girl leaned over to my buddy Jacob and looked at him with a level of excitement that noticeably wasn't shared by both parties. "I feel like I'm really ready to get into this? Are you ready?" Jacob just smirked and nodded.
Random Notebook Dump: I feel dirty.