"I just wanna know one thing," Kid Rock bellowed to the crowd packed into Michigan's Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday night. "Am I home?"
Well, of course he was. Where else but in his native metro Detroit would 16,500 exuberantly moshing and middle-finger flinging fans snap up tickets in three days to pack an arena where Rock has seen his share of AC/DC, Van Halen and Bob Seger shows? This is the one place where he didn't necessarily have to open with his standard salutation, "My name is Kiiiiiiiiiiiid Rock!"
Still, for numerous reasons, this was a hell of a homecoming.
Rock -- who was born and raised Bob Ritchie in nearby Romeo, Mich. -- hadn't performed in the area for nearly thirteen months, since a show at the 3,000-seat State Theater, where the video for "I Am the Bullgod" was shot. What a difference a year makes: his fourth album, Devil Without a Cause
, has sold 4.5 million copies; he's a fixture on MTV; he's toured with Limp Bizkit; and he was the toast -- figuratively speaking, of course -- of Woodstock '99.
As the second date of his new "Between the Legs" tour, the Palace show was also Rock's opportunity to solidify himself as an arena-caliber headliner. He met that challenge with an emotional hour and forty-five-minute slamfest that celebrated his arrival at the top of the rock strata ten years after kicking out jams at any local basement party that would have him.
With dozens of friends and family watching (so many, Rock's brother Bill noted after the show, that the Ritchie clan could have efficiently exchanged Christmas presents), Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker crew charged through their set with fiery abandon, even tossing in references to early material such as "Yo-Da-Lin in the Valley." Lifted to the top of a platform high above the stage, Rock -- sporting a blue suit, a white fur coat and a white fedora -- saluted the crowd with a walking stick as strippers did the grind around him. A minute later he was down to a white tank top and red sweats, belting out the brimstone braggadocio of the molten "Bawitdaba."
The show's opening salvo, in fact, generated more heat than most bands do during an entire show. Amidst periodic pyrotechnic explosions, Rock and company tore through Devil
's "Welcome 2 the Party," "F--k Off," "Devil Without a Cause," "Bullgod" and "I Got One For Ya" without pause, though Rock was sporting his fourth outfit by the time newly hired bassist Mike Bradford began the opening chug of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son."
That's a hard level to sustain, however, and Rock wasn't quite able to -- although it wasn't entirely his fault. As the group wound into the rootsy groove of its latest single, "Cowboy," guitarist Jason Krause's rig went on the fritz, forcing the Twisted Brown Trucker team to vamp for far longer than they were prepared to. The show never quite regained its equilibrium after that, though moments rose to its earlier level -- notably during the loping "Wasting Time" and the adrenalized workout "My Name Is Rock," which really should have been the night's final number rather than the main set's closer.
The hometown crowd's enthusiasm didn't flag, however, and they didn't even miss the hyped "very special guest" -- Ted Nugent, who called in sick that afternoon. Rock, who had the brass-balls temerity to predict "I'm goin' platinum!" on Devil
's title track, was clearly a champion on this night, a devil with a particularly righteous cause.
Written by GARY GRAFF for RollingStone.com News