Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow at Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion, 8-5-11

Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow
Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion
, August 5

On paper, Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow come off like a study in contrasts, some sort of "beauty and the beast" proposition.

Crow has always been easy to like -- or at least hard to actively dislike. Her '90s hits "If It Makes You Happy" and "All I Wanna Do" are solid tunes, the kind of unassuming, melodic pop it's hard to imagine dominating the airwaves today. Yet she's maintained her popularity, embracing her twangy roots the farther down the road she's gone.

Kid Rock, on the other hand, is a tougher pill to swallow. Rock came to us riding a surge of rap-rock popularity, and if there's ever been a more loathsome time for American radio, I'm at a loss to name it.

After seeing the two perform last night, I'm inclined to say the two have a lot more in common than their hits "Picture" and "Collide." Both manage to appeal to a broad collection of country, classic rock, and pop fans, both have remarkably solid voices, and both are consummate performers.

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I managed to get to my seat about midway through Crow's set. I was surprised to see Crow fronting such a cranking band. Featuring a couple of guitarists (Crow played some times, just sang others), a keyboardist, drummer, bassist, and two backup singers, the group seemed like the kind of thing you may stumble into a bar and hear -- in a good way.

Following "Steve McQueen," Crow launched into a series of hits. "Favorite Mistake" found her endlessly confident, looking pretty good for 49, in her tight white jeans. She incorporated "Stuck in the Middle With You" into her rendition of "All I Wanna Do," and the crowd quickly got behind the move.

I'm not sure "If It Makes You Happy" is Crow's best song -- I haven't spent much time listening to her discography, but it's certainly my favorite tune by her. The chorus couldn't get more airtight, and Crow's voice sounds great when she turns on the grit.

I've often mentioned my fondness for "dad-rock," so let's go ahead and call Sheryl Crow "aunt-rock."

Crow joked that Kid Rock turned 40 this year and remarked that "40 is the new 23."

The crowd loved that, but when she announced that she was going to be 50, also "the new 23," the crowd cheered even louder.

The pairing drew a packed house, and there were of plenty of "new 23-year-olds in the crowd.

Crow lost me with her closer, the gospel pastiche "I Shall Believe."

She sounded fine, but the tune just seemed to reach too far. Crow's at her best playing the clever barfly character she sings about in "All I Wanna Do." When she tries to take you to church, it just doesn't seem to fit.

After a less-than-modest video introduction, Kid Rock took the stage to "American Bad Ass," with his guitarists rocking the "Sad But True" riff on loan from Metallica. The stage show was ridiculously over the top, with stripper poles, pyro, lasers, and videos.

Over the next two hours, Kid would ping-pong between genres, and pay tribute to varied artists like Johnny Cash, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, Rush, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, and more. Rock wears his influences proudly on his sleeve (even when he took his shirt off), which is admirable considering how the guy borrows as an art-form, endlessly mixing southern rock, rap, metal, and blues.

The riffs and cadences may have been lifted from Detroit record stores, but Rock's showmanship is all his own. "You Never Met a Motherfucker Quite Like Me" was enjoyably bone-headed -- yeah, it forces me to recall the days when you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing crap from Limp Bizkit and the Kid, but Bizkit never seemed to manage to have quite the sense of humor as Kid Rock.

Not to mention the chops. Over the course of the show, Rock played keyboards, sang, rapped, DJ'd, played guitar, and drummed. "God Bless Saturday" and "Flyin' High," songs from his latest, Rick Rubin-produced Born Free, found Rock singing with a raspy croon. Who knew he had it in him?

Rock sat at the piano for "Care," also from the latest album. I agree with the sentiment, "Cos I cant stop the war/shelter homeless, feed the poor/I can't walk on water/I can't save your sons and daughters/I can't change the world and make things fair/The least that I can do is care," but it's pretty tough to try and take the "American Bad Ass" too seriously.

A trio of famous comedians, Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart, and Jimmy Kimmel introduced "I'm Fucking 40," a fun novelty from song (sample lyric: "The Stones are almost dead").

As expected, Crow joined Rock on stage, dueting on the terrible song "Love the One You're With," and the less-terrible "Picture."

The two have great chemistry, and refreshingly, they didn't take the cheating song too seriously, displaying a "nude picture of Kid Rock" for sale on eBay.

Following an introduction from Beavis and Butt-Head ("He's more like Kid "Soft" Rock, huh-uh-huh...") Rock closed out his set with his bonehead anthem "Bawitdaba." The crowd loved it, but I actually preferred the encore set, which found Kid finishing with the title track of his latest, and the tour's namesake, "Born Free."

You've got to credit Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow for bringing in their audience -- the place had to be close to sold out if it wasn't. The night featured almost every style of popular music currently on the FM dial. The two are smart, especially Kid Rock. You've got to give the people what they want, and it turns out they want it all, at the same time.

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow at Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion

The Crowd: Rednecks, country fans, rockers, wanna-be strippers, actual strippers.

Random Notebook Dump: "Hey, it's CoCo!" 

By the Way: Who do Kid Rock and Bonnie "Prince" Billy have in common? Rick Rubin and Matt Sweeney. 

Overheard: A rendition of Dr. Hook's "Cover of The Rolling Stone" belted out by some nuked fans in the parking lot. Before the show started.

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