Kid Rock at the Minnesota State Fair, 8/23/14

Kid Rock at the Minnesota State Fair
Kid Rock at the Minnesota State Fair
Mike Madison

Kid Rock
Minnesota State Fair Grandstand, St. Paul
Saturday, August 23, 2014

There is one vestige of the felled rap-rock era that just refuses to shrivel up and go away. This artifact of one of popular music's more unfortunate trend cycles remains so popular, in fact, that he still manages to sell out massive concerts. This past Saturday at the Minnesota State Fair, he proved his immortality once more by performing to a sold-out crowd of 13,123 America-loving, black bandana and sequin-wearing, fair-going "motherfuckers."

Ladies and gentlemen, Kid Rock is still very much alive and kicking. Included in his ridiculous assortment of hats that he so generously showcased throughout his performance: the fedora/top hat (a marriage of the two most signature hipster hats), the trucker hat, and of course... the cowboy hat. "I wanna be a cowboy, baby," he sang to the drunken crowd, most of them double-fisting in efforts not to spend half of the show waiting in line for another cold one.

Atlanta five-piece Southern rock/country band Blackberry Smoke's set was a pleasant start to the evening. The Americana vibes felt appropriate for the environment of the concert. Small clusters of fans stood apart among the mostly seated stands and sang along to each song, raising their fists in devotion to the long-haired five. It seemed like having flowing, well-manicured locks was a requirement to be a member of Blackberry Smoke.

Lead guitarist and vocalist Charlie Starr's beautiful guitar had designs burnt into its lacquered surface. The band played a laid-back rendition of the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," then he switched over to an acoustic guitar and went into their song "Ain't Got the Blues." "I ain't got the blues anymore, I don't toss and turn at night..." Starr drawled while casually strumming. Their musicianship was unquestioned, but Blackberry Smoke brought no antics to the stage whatsoever.

Kid Rock at the Minnesota State Fair, 8/23/14
Photo by Mike Madison

When Kid Rock initially got on stage, all of the lights in the house went off, plunging us into complete darkness. The strains of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" rose over the speakers, and people jumped to their feet cheering. He strutted onstage while some sort of prayer played over the music, and giant bald eagles were projected onto the massive screens at his sides. "This is not just another concert in another town," he yelled at us. "This is St. Paul, Minnesota!" Everyone screamed in delight and admiration as if Jesus himself had just risen on the stage before them.

Unfortunately, Kid Rock performed every song along with a backing track that already included his vocals. This allowed him plenty of opportunity to either lip sync or just allow the pre-recorded voice to do the singing while he swaggered around the stage, shouting out lyrics at random. His saxophone player was the true star of the show, and blew frantically through complex solo after solo, stealing our attention. A wide banner of a bald eagle hung behind the band, a re-enforcement of the America theme that was going on. The band was fairly large, consisting of three backup singers, two guitarists, two drummers, a keyboardist, bassist, and the saxophone player. Occasionally, one of the backup singers picked up her own guitar and played along. They played through all of his big hits, including "Devil Without a Cause," "American Bad Ass," and "Rock Bottom Blues."

The formula made itself apparent. Most of Kid Rock's songs consist of samples from big American hits, like "Sweet Home Alabama." After taking a huge hit like this, or creating a rock song that sounds vaguely like another famous rock song, he then adds his frantic rapping on top, making sure to utilize the F-word as many times as possible. He's kind of like the Girl Talk of rock.

Kid Rock at the Minnesota State Fair, 8/23/14
Photo by Mike Madison

Basically, if you like one Kid Rock song, you are subconsciously forced into liking all of them -- because all of them are actually the same. A lot of people took that leap of faith and liked that first Kid Rock song. They were all there, screaming their heads off along with him and waving their beers in the air, to lines like "I'm the illest fool/ Cooler than the bottom of a swimming pool."


Kid Rock at the Minnesota State Fair, 8/23/14
Photos by Mike Madison

For all of Kid Rock's lyrical bragging and posturing, he does try to remain relatable to the working-class American. He took time to thank everyone for spending their "hard-earned money" on concert tickets for the evening, and paused the show to play some kind of weird public service announcement on the giant screens. Images flashed of young men and women in the service, while a deep voice spoke. We watched a mash-up of clips of everything American, as we were told to believe in ourselves and in the dream. "Here's a toast to America," Kid Rock said at the end of the short film. "We don't just raise the glass, or a fucking bottle. We raise the whole bar!"

What better way to the end the evening than with "Bawitdaba," the anthem that made Kid Rock so ridiculously famous in the first place. He seemed almost resigned to sing this song just one more time, to remind everyone of the time when they sold him their subconscious. This was the song that started it all. As the lights fell, fireworks shot into the sky, perfectly timed to coincide with the ending of the concert. Suddenly, you could hear the pounding bass coming out of the rave tent just behind the Grandstand, which was surrounded by kids swinging their poi and people shoving cheese curds into their mouths. America, indeed.

Critic's Bias: I was never a Kid Rock fan. But I still knew the words to about half of his songs somehow. Terrifying.

The crowd: The crowd was mostly folks in their 30s and 40s, and there were few children seen anywhere. Kid Rock himself is 43, a fact he addressed when telling the us how he's hurt himself taking a fall during a basketball game, while wearing a trucker hat that read "Old Fart." It appeared that tonight was a date night for many. Perhaps Kid Rock is the reason why lots of high school kids got paid babysitting gigs this weekend. Men and women clung to each other, swaying from the beer.

Fashion choices were intriguing. Sequined shirts and tank tops abounded, and it seemed like the men had all planned on wearing matching black and white patterned bandanas on their heads. If not bandanas, then at least a hat of some sort. There were cowboy hats of all kinds: with feathers, velvet, fur, rhinestones, and even cowboy hats made out of fake wicker, and woven plastic strips. About a third of the audience seemed to be wearing Kid Rock T-shirts of various designs, as the merch table appeared to be doing quite well for itself. The smell of fried foods permeated the hills, and the sounds of the fair wafted over the giant Grandstand wall, which loomed menacingly, swelling with the huge crowd.

Random notebook dump: For some people, this is it. This could be the big event of the year that they've been looking forward to. All the smaller county fairs have led to this, and now here they are. America is intense.

Set List:
Don't Stop Believin' (Journey)
Devil Without a Cause
You Never Met a Motherfucker Quite Like Me
American Bad Ass
(with "Tom Sawyer" by Rush intro)
Rock Bottom Blues
All Summer Long
Lay It on Me / Cowboy
So Hott
Kid Rock aka DJ Bobby Shazam
3 Sheets to the Wind (What's My Name) / La Grange / Cat Scratch Fever
Only God Knows Why
Born Free

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Minnesota State Fair Grandstand

1265 Snelling Ave. N.
St. Paul, MN 55108


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