By Jeff Miers
News Pop Music Critic
Kid Rock presided over a party for the blue-collar working man and woman at Darien Lake on Friday evening.
The whole gig felt like a massive backyard barbecue, with the evening’s entertainment doing his best to divert the attention of those in attendance away from the gritty realism of their paycheck-to-paycheck daily lives and toward a temporary fantasy land where the greatest hits of ’70s rock spin endlessly atop a mashed-up hip-hop groove.
Judging by the reactions of what appeared to be a fully packed Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, the Kid managed to do just that.
Right out of the gate, following a behind-the-curtain recitation of a mildly cornball “prayer/invocation of Kid Rock’s awesomeness,” Rock and his rather outstanding Twisted Brown Trucker Band appeared to be loaded for bear. “Devil Without A Cause” is absolutely prime Kid Rock – a funk-metal guitar riff and pile-driving rhythm section backed Rock’s statement of intent, as he indulged in the time-honored hip-hop trait of insisting that everyone else is but a pale imitation of this particular man with the mic.
This incredible energy took a hit, however, when Rock reached into his grab-bag for a few country/hip-hop mashups in the form of “Wasting Time” and “Redneck Paradise.” The former is only a so-so bit of southern rock retooling that ended up sounding like Lynyrd Skynyrd lite with a mild dose of Black Oak Arkansas thrown into the stew; the latter was performed as a duet, via synchronized video screen, with Hank Williams Jr., a hero of Rock’s who is consistently cast by his protege as the father of the rock-country hybrid that glorifies the pleasures of “the good life” – in this case, those pleasures include hunting, fishing, drinking and smoking cigars. All well and good, but the tune is hackneyed and cliche-ridden, and it arrived in the middle of what had been a set with considerable drive and forward momentum as a fairly major buzz-kill.
Opening sets from Kool and the Gang and Uncle Kracker added to the value-for-money aspect and the party vibe considerably. Longtime Kid Rock pal Kracker offered up his country/folk/hip-hop hybrid to kick off the proceedings, and his hits “Follow Me,” “Smile” and a sturdy, inspired take on Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away” were enthusiastically received. Kool and the Gang – featuring two abundantly talented Western New York natives, vocalist Shawn McQuiller and keyboardist Curtis Williams – brought its ebullient blend of funk, soul, R&B and pop to the party.