Kid Rock Reliant Stadium March 14, 2011
First things first: Yes, Aftermath got to Reliant Stadium with plenty of time to spare Monday. One embarrassing screw-up per Rodeo season is more than enough, thank you very much.
Besides, no way were we gonna miss Kid Rock's RodeoHouston debut, if not his first time to play the House That McNair Built.
"Remember that little thing they had here called the Super Bowl?" Rock asked the crowd after "Low Life." "We actually played that, but no one remembers because Janet Jackson showed her boob that night."
Long pause; big cheer. "Good."
Whoever booked the American Badass for the Rodeo this year deserves an A-plus. Aftermath is sure the idea met with some friction among the old, old guard at Reliant Center, the people who (with our sympathy) would likely rather still be booking Charley Pride and Ronnie Milsap, but the Kid delivered. In a handful of previous shows, we've seen him be cruder, we've seen him rock harder, but we've never seen him be more of a crowd-pleaser.
Monday brought a number of firsts to the Rodeo, we're guessing, from the extended Beastie Boys breakdown of "Three Sheets To the Wind" that wound its way into ZZ Top's "Tush" and Detroit homey Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" (with Rock on drums), to the video-screen cameos by Beavis and Butt-Head, shaking what their mama Mike Judge gave them during Neanderthal-and-loving-it "Bawitdaba."
Obviously enjoying himself long before he took a swig from the bottle of Jim Beam resting on the turntables, Rock did clean up his act Monday... a little. There was no mention of "Detroit pussy" in opener "Cowboy" - an early tipoff of Rock's passion for country and Southern rock long before he inserted the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider" and Waylon's Dukes of Hazzard theme Monday - and his "words of wisdom" in the climactic rap were "Do this," not... well, you know. Radio edit.
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Don't worry, the Early Morning Stoned Pimp hasn't gone G-rated. (Judging by the amout of cleavage, short-shorts and skintight halter tops on hand Monday, he would have been in the wrong place anyway.) He dropped the S-bomb every time it came up in the chorus of the AC/DC-grooving "God Bless Saturday," and the litany of transgressions he detailed before "Low Life" morphed into the Georgia Satellites' "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" would have kept even the most permissive priest busy until June.
Rock may be a low life, or he may be putting up a front - it's funny to hear him sing "I think racist jokes are funny" when at least half his Twisted Brown Trucker band is black - but either way he's smart. It takes a sharp ear to realize how well the hooks of Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" could fit together to make "All Summer Long"; toss in some lyrics about "smoking funny things" and fooling around on the shores of the Great Lakes, and of course you have a hit.
He was also smart enough to set up piano ballad "Care" so one of TBT's backup singers (didn't catch her name; wish we did) could carry it off into the great gospel beyond, making an excellent segue into the old "Amen" chorus. And it was nice to see former blues-guitar prodigy Shannon Curfman match him tear for tear on "Picture," her voice every bit as whiskey-stained as her boss'. His line "wish I had a Texas woman to miss me" brought the biggest cheer we've heard at the Rodeo this year, and maybe ever.
Before closing out with de facto Bob Seger tribute "Born Free," Rock - who had already given several shouts-out to U.S. servicemen and women - yielded the stage to his tenor player Dave McMurray, who played "The Star-Spangled Banner" the same way Lisa Simpson might, slow and bluesy. Kid Rock might have seemed like a radical booking for the Rodeo on paper, but not after that; we doubt even Toby Keith could have figuratively waved the flag any higher or prouder.
There are two words in American Badass, remember. It's not an either-or proposition.
Personal Bias: Caught onto Rock shortly after he played Emo's indoors in Austin and Devil Without a Cause was blowing up, and have been a somewhat wayward disciple of the Rock & Roll Jesus ever since.
The Crowd: If not a sellout, then close. The jeans were tighter, the necklines lower and the heels higher than any other Rodeo crowd we've ever seen. Spring Break Stampede is in full effect.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Whooooo!!!" (multiple times)
Random Notebook Dump: Why would anyone ever, ever, ever wear a mullet wig when it's not Halloween, even to a Kid Rock show?
Also: Thanks to Paige from the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo for the use of her pen.
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Cowboy God Bless Saturday Low Life/Keep Your Hands To Yourself (Georgia Satellites) Care/Amen All Summer Long Picture Three Sheets To the Wind/Tush/Cat Scratch Fever (ZZ Top/Ted Nugent) Bawitdaba The Star-Spangled Banner (Dave McMurray solo) Born Free