It's a match made in American Badass heaven: Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, kindred souls in music and patriotism, kicked off their joint Rock N' Rebels tour Friday night at West Palm Beach, FL's Cruzan Amphitheatre.
It was a pairing of apprentice and mentor. But what Rock lacked in classic rock cred -- most notably career longevity -- he made up with convincing fervor and by paying tribute to Skynyrd and their various rock contemporaries in song.
During his two-hour set, Kid called out Skynyrd many times, most prominently in his latest hit "All Summer Long," that smashing mash of "Sweet Home Alabama" and Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London."
But ZZ Top's name was dropped a couple times, too -- in "Son of Detroit" and "American Badass" -- and so was just about everyone else in the classic rock hall of fame, from AC/DC to Bob Seger. And when Kid's not saying their names, he's playing their songs, either in full (a cover of the Stones' "Tumbling Dice") or in part (a medley of Sly Stone's "Everyday People" and Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever"). During "Lowlife" the Motor City redneck even dropped in some of the Georgia Satellites' 1986 "Keep Your Hands to Yourself."
And Kid's nine-piece Twisted Brown Trucker Band do all this with the kind of blood, sweat, and beers that put the music on the map in the first place. His audience, loyal as they come in modern rock, whooped and hollered throughout the show. By the time Kid struck the first notes of "Bawitdaba," the screaming reached its craziest.
Some call Rock's amalgam of rock, rap, and country simple genre-hopping, but after a dozen years in the limelight he's refined the process to create something altogether his own. Sure, "Rock 'n' Roll Jesus" could've come straight from Ike Turner's playbook, and "So Hott" has enough AC/DC to make Angus Young call his attorneys. But these are not so much thefts as they are tributes, knowing and loving nods to the sounds that he's found most inspiring.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, who opened for Rock, couldn't really have done any wrong as far as the 19,000-strong crowd of bourbon-drinkers and hell-raisers were concerned. After almost four decades of plane wrecks, car crashes, and other assorted tragedies, it was pretty much enough for Johnny Van Zandt and Co. to simply take the stage.
The fans' devotion is valid: Skynyrd have a catalog of country-rock classics to cull from, and, as expected, the band pulled out each and every one of 'em. "Saturday Night Special" struck the gun-rack set, as did "Gimme Back My Bullets," while "What's Your Name" and "That Smell" both spoke of an excess many in the audience still seemed to be enjoying. Of course, "Sweet Home Alabama" got the most applause. Then there was "Free Bird," which went on forever... but not a soul seemed to mind.
Skynyrd finally concluded their magnum opus rock epic as a list of all the band's deceased members played onscreen, naming the likes of keyboardist Billy Powell and bassist Ean Evans, both of whom passed away this year.
And if seeing a list of those who've come and gone play to the tune of Southern rock's most recognizable song wasn't a fitting prelude to the headlining set from neo-traditionalist Kid Rock, well, then nothing ever would be.
Kid Rock / Photo by Ian Witlen