WANT TO GO?
What: Kid Rock in concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Greensboro Coliseum, 1921 W. Lee St., Greensboro
Information: www. greensborocoliseum.com
The first time I saw Kid Rock was in Charlotte, and I remember it well.
It was 2001, and the artist formerly known as Bob Ritchie was riding a wave of popularity driven by his breakthrough album, “Devil Without a Cause,” released two years earlier. Its lewd lyrics and rap-rock hybrid struck a chord with a rowdy crowd, ultimately selling 11 million copies.
Kid Rock brought the bad-boy persona he presented in songs such as “Bawitdaba,” “I Am a Bullgod” and “Cowboy” to life onstage. And what a stage it was.
I described it in a review for Rolling Stone: “His cracker vaudeville revue featured bikini-clad babes grinding in go-go cages, fireworks and ear-splitting pyro, fan-blown confetti and dry ice, a mammoth inflatable fist with middle finger extended, and the words KID ROCK ablaze in lights against a leviathan American flag.”
For those who nurtured a trash-rock aesthetic and could appreciate low-brow humor, there was nothing not to like about Kid Rock. He cut a swath through the decade, living large and partying hard while cultivating a raunchy image as the Celebrity Most Likely to Judge a Wet T-Shirt Contest. Continue Reading
He occasionally pushed the envelope, titling his 2007 album “Rock and Roll Jesus.”
A year earlier he had married actress-model Pam Anderson. The union lasted four months.
Fast-forward to the present decade. Much has changed for and about Kid Rock, who comes to the Greensboro Coliseum on Tuesday.
The self-proclaimed “American Bad Ass” is growing up. He turned 40 in 2011. He is rapping less and singing more.
These days, he sounds more like a heartland rocker than the “Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp” he depicted in his 1996 album of that title.
In a recent appearance on CBS’ “For the Record,” he seemed as normal as apple pie. Humble, likeable, even charitable.
It turns out he had given or raised a million dollars for various charities that year, and when the interviewer pressed the reluctant philanthropist to affirm the amount, he simply said, “How lucky am I to be able to do that?”
One of his charity gigs included a concert with the Detroit Symphony. That may seem surprising, but perhaps it shouldn’t be. Kid Rock has always been diverse in his approach to music, triangulating between rap, classic rock and country music in formulating his own form of Americana.
On his latest album, “Rebel Soul,” released in November, he sounds like a raw-throated Steven Tyler singing songs that Bob Seger and Toby Keith might have written together while a Lynyrd Skynyrd album played in the background. Kid Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker Band kick up a righteous and unrelenting cloud of dust on the album.
In a memorable line from “God Save Rock ‘N’ Roll,” he only half-jokingly describes his mission as “fighting for the upper end of the lower class.”
“Born Free,” released in 2010, included a song called “Care,” which featured country singer Martina McBride and rapper T.I. as guests. Conceiving such an unlikely pairing and making it work is a pure Kid Rock type of move. He just doesn’t see musical borders like so many others do.
It gets even more interesting. The title track of “Born Free” was adopted by Mitt Romney as his campaign anthem, and Kid Rock famously campaigned for the Republican presidential nominee.
On the surface, it would seem counterintuitive for a hard-partying blue-collar rap-rocker from Detroit to find common ground with a teetotaling Mormon uber-capitalist. Rock ’n’ rollers, after all, tend to stump for liberal candidates and causes.
Kid Rock explained his endorsement to a writer for the Los Angeles Times: “He’s like a father figure for me. He seemed like a genuinely decent (guy).”
This much is certain: Kid Rock has always been his own man. What’s interesting in recent years are the changes that he has brought to his music, which suggest a newfound — dare I say it? — maturity.
“I know I’m a great performer,” Kid Rock said a few years back. “I’ve done that my whole life. But now I’ve come into my own as a songwriter and musician.”
Contact Parke Puterbaugh at parkeputerbaugh @earthlink.net.