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Rock of Ages

The Detroit Cowboy tells his congregation about the world, flesh, and the Devil

Kid Rock is a Great American, and the Last Superhero of Rock 'n' Roll. The Fillmore stop of the Rock Sermon Tour saw the Michigan Messiah mackin' and profilin' through a crush of vintage gear and winking red and white candles (perhaps from an East 116th botánica?), conjuring spirits of electric churches past.

We jumped up with the boogie and tried to mellow down easy during the divine country soul of a swath of new Rock 'n' Roll Jesus gems, while our Kid onstage got busy with everything from vocoder to two-turntables-and-a-microphone. The evolving Twisted Brown Trucker band ensured we would survive the hotbox, as their frontman swung through multiple guises: the stoned pimp of "Sugar," the cocky rocker of (the apt) "So Hott," an outlaw balladeer on "Only God Knows Why," and Right Reverend Robert exhorting the crowd to join him in an "Amen." This latter incarnation was most intriguing—surely so for the bleached blonde dead center in the crush below, who lustily brandished her crutches, anticipating a laying-on of hands. We were taken to the Mountaintop, as new guitarist Marlon Young's possession by Southern-rock ax angels like recently deceased Hughie Thomasson bridged blessings during the mash-up of "Sweet Home Alabama" and Warren Zevon on "All Summer Long." Then came Rev. Rock's interpolation of "Midnight Rider" and David Allen Coe's "Call Me by My Name" on the ever-majestic "Cowboy."

Despite a new release shot straight from the eye of Hurricane Katrina, Kid Rock mirrored some fans' reticence in embracing sonic introspection, tentatively delivering soulful songs like "When U Love Someone." Like the aforementioned candles, his ruddy "Anglo-Saxon ass" mightily recovers the African powers of warrior god Shango (who harnesses thunder, lightning, and many wives), yet the vulnerable revelator behind these masks still hovers in the wings live. Sho 'nuff, I love Kid Rock: He's been my favorite artist of the past decade for brave, relentless hard labor in rebirthing this hybrid nation of ours, fearlessly reconciling our African and European selves via twang, beats, and metallic mysteries. And RRJ's best is no exception, but brothaman, revelation requires sacrifice.

Upon hearing "Half Your Age," one feels heartache at what Kid Rock must be suffering. Everyone wants to be loved, not resented or manipulated, for their true nature. Still, while the kiss-off to his personal woes is amusing tabloid sing-along, such songs do not ultimately serve his Muse nor RRJ's honoring of Ahmet Ertegun. Compared to what remains his best song, "Picture"—delivered here as bittersweet duet with veteran drummer Stefanie Eulinberg, a/k/a the Woman in the Red Satin Pajamas—this will not cement Kid Rock's rightful place in the hallowed halls of the House That Miss Rhythm built. One hopes that over the course of this wonderful theater tour, he will unleash daring material like "New Orleans" and truly take the Holy Ghost to the stage.

 
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