When Kid Rock announced that his fan-friendly "Best Night Ever" tour would price the majority of tickets at $20, fans nationwide lined up in droves. Some 19,000 of them scattered First Niagara Pavilion Saturday night. With the discounted price, one might expect the production to suffer. Not so. For 1 hour and 50 minutes, the Other Motor City Madman ran, jumped and burned through a set filled with lasers, confetti and pyro effects.
After a taped "prayer" in which he promised to do anything but disappoint, Rock opened the notoriously R-rated show with the metal-rap of 1998's "Devil Without A Cause."
The Michigan native is an amalgam of country, hip hop, rock and rap. His genre-crossing makes for a linear set list and few demarcation lines between songs that still has something for everyone. His fan base ranges from thrash metal fanatics to pop enthusiasts. Sleeveless metal band T-shirts and polos were in equal abundance.
He welcomed returning fans and quipped for the newbies, "I know some of your wives dragged you here by saying, "Tickets are only $20. Let's go see what it's about. I like 'Picture' and 'All Summer Long.' Clearly, you're not familiar with my earlier work."
The trademark vulgarity of the material such as "You've Never Met A (Expletive) Quite Like Me." and improvisational cussing risk rendering a show like this as gimmicky. However, he demonstrated his skill as a multi-instrumentalist with stints on piano and acoustic guitar.
Rock was also able to incorporate unexpected finesse into the show. "What I Learned On The Road" featured a soulful Motown sax and backup singing.
Of course, the "Picture" duet with his Twisted Brown Trucker Band backup singer Shannon Curfman always seems to placate the offended.
After Uncle Kracker played a short set, ZZ Top took the stage and may as well have been listed as a co-headliner. The band rocks as hard as ever. Billy Gibbons is ranked No. 32 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists list with good reason. Few lead players shoulder as much of a load. Gibbons' use of sustain and echo is solely the band's trademark sound. He eliminates the need for a second ax man. The monster hits "Sharp Dressed Man," "Legs" and "La Grange" still sound fresh in the band's veteran hands. During the closer, "Tush," a stagehand lit Gibbons' cigar while he was playing.
Michael Rampa is a freelance writer.