Kid Rock At Universal

I’m not calling it the Gibson.  Shit, I can barely get used to the building having a roof.  That’s how far we’ve come.  From a magical summer series to an institutional building studded with corporate crepe featuring acts that can’t sell out even though they’ve got the number one single of the summer.

Used to be acts played for a week at Universal and you couldn’t get a ticket!  Back when rock ruled the world, when you listened to music if you wanted to know which way the wind blew, when all the excitement didn’t live online.

Used to be you had to leave your house, for the action, to feel part of the world.  Now you’re better off staying at home.  With your computer screen as your window to the world.  There’s a pulse online that is absent the sold out environs of today’s entertainment venues.  Starting with the name.  Shit, I’m going to auction off rights to my house.  Buick Presents The Bob Lefsetz Abode!  They probably figure I’m part of their demo, that if I endorse their piece of shit cars ignorant brethren of mine will actually but one.  But, I think Buicks are bogus.  But we live in an era where you take the dough.  You’re a fool if you don’t take the dough.  I can understand nonprofits naming buildings for their donors…  Then again, I liked it better when it was still Philharmonic Hall, before it became Avery Fisher.

I bring all this up because to be a citizen in today’s America is to feel powerless.  Against not only the government, but the corporations who control the lawmakers.  What’s good for Wall Street may not be good for the country, but it makes the traders fucking RICH!  And you want to be rich too, don’t you?  So don’t hassle them.  Otherwise you’re going to lose a chance you never had anyway.

So you can imagine how eager I was to drive to Universal City for this show.  I loved "Devil Without A Cause".  But that was ten years ago. When a number one album, driven by MTV airplay and incessant radio that people actually listened to, sold in excess of ten million copies. But now, you can’t garner that much attention.  Ever.  Unless you shoot somebody.  And then people only pay attention for a minute.  You can argue all day long whether keeping "Rock N Roll Jesus" off iTunes drove sales, but you’ve still got to look at the paltry total.  The album JUST WENT DOUBLE PLATINUM!  After almost A YEAR!  Single of the summer, and the impact is less than Herman’s Hermits’ "Henry The VIII".  Not that "All Summer Long" isn’t good.  It’s just that you can’t get everybody to pay attention.  Hell, I didn’t even play the damn album. Not because I had a vendetta against Mr. Ritchie, but because shortly after it arrived the fourth quarter deluge began, I was busy listening to country radio, downloading classics…where’s the time?  But, I was entranced by Bob’s belief in the album.  He implored me to LISTEN TO IT!  But I still didn’t.  And the only reason I went to this show was because Celine insisted.

She records my podcasts at Rhino.  She e-mailed me.  Would I go with her?

Sure.  If I was in town.

Which I turned out to be.

And I left it in her hands.  And when she e-mailed me to meet her at the venue, to drive my own car, I passed.  Melissa and Bob Shea are gone.  Who was I going to e-mail at this late date for backstage parking?  And was that where the tickets were?

They weren’t.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Celine said she was meeting friends.  They didn’t need me.  I was out.

But Celine protested.  O.K., I’ll meet you at your house and we’ll drive together.  And park with the hoi polloi.  And journey around the bend, through CityWalk.

And what a bogus construct that is.  Something out of Toon Town.  But, good for shits and giggles as they say.

But when we got to the kiosk and retrieved our tickets, they were for the pit.  I didn’t want to stand that close, with that many sweaty bodies. And Celine wasn’t eager either.  She jumped on her iPhone and started texting people.

And I started people-watching.

Conventional wisdom is Southern California is Hollywood.  Suntanned bodies, enhanced by plastic surgery and toned in a million workouts.  But this wasn’t that crowd.  This group came from the EAST!  Like RIVERSIDE!  They looked no different from those in Detroit. Imperfect bodies.  Which they were not ashamed of.

Forty five year old women are striding by me with their tits hanging out.  As if they were still eighteen and looking to get lucky at the show. Everybody was still young on the inside.  This was better than any movie, anything I’ve experienced online.  This was imperfect human flesh.  Out for a night on the town.

And when we finally got our ducat situation worked out, we strode over the bridge to the venue.

Where I was confronted by Verizon.  That’s what I think of when I go to a show…MY CELL PHONE PROVIDER!  I’m a big believer in Verizon, I can drive across town and not lose my connection, but seeing them here was like encountering your home ec teacher at McDonald’s.  This whole evening was just an excuse for a corporation to make money.  We were pawns in their game.  Compacted like sardines in this tiny area.

Celine wanted some alcohol so we got in an interminable line.  Which we ultimately abandoned.  But not before the fiftysomething smoking a cigar put his arms around one of the skankiest women I’ve ever seen.  This was not the beautiful people.  This was just regular people. Out for a night on the town.  Sure, they’d paid the TicketMaster fee, but the $61 ticket price, to sit down close, that was reasonable…  They wanted to be entertained.

And after connecting with Mark Pinkus and his wife, bullshitting in the lobby, we heard a sound…  The show was beginning!  I NEVER MISS THE BEGINNING OF THE SHOW!

We ran to the doors, and strutting like Rod Stewart from stage left was…Mr. Ritchie himself.  In this ridiculous white outfit.  And when he hit the center of the stage, HE EXPLODED!  Telling us all how he was a rock and roll JESUS!

I wasn’t familiar with the tune.  It should have washed off my back.  But it was like I’d entered a club in Detroit, where a full tilt boogie band had something to prove.  Was CLOSING ME!  It was like the Blues Brothers, but with a professional frontman.

And by time we were in our seats, the band had transferred to this…GOSPEL NUMBER?  An acoustic guitar is strumming, and Bob is imploring us to say amen.


You know how you move involuntarily, how you just can’t help it because the music has penetrated and inspired you?  That’s what it was like.  I was along for the ride!  I hadn’t made an intellectual decision.  It was like I was standing on a pier at the lake and my buddy in the water said JUMP IN!  AND I DID!

And speaking of the lake, Bob didn’t save "All Summer Long" until the end.  It was closer to the beginning.  He didn’t believe he needed to employ it as his big closer, as his encore.  Actually, he didn’t do an encore.  What do you do after you’ve given your all and raised the roof? ISN’T THAT ENOUGH?

I’m smiling, I’m laughing.  Bob brings the audience down.  And starts commiserating, telling us he knows it’s been rough out there, but not to worry, tonight he’s going to do ALL THE WORK!  And he’s jumping around in a way that you figure he’ll be seeing a chiropractor for the rest of his life.  And his ten piece band is COOKING!  Who takes a ten piece band on the road?  He can’t be making any money.  But it’s not about money.  It’s about the experience.

And he tells us he knows we’re all from different walks of life.  So, he implores us to turn around and introduce ourselves to our neighbors, to shake hands.  Which, upon his command, we all do.  Everybody’s smiling, everybody’s happy, I’m now not alone, but part of the PARTY! If I could have sent you a missive from my BlackBerry, I would have done so RIGHT THEN!  You know when you’ve been reached, when you’re hovering ten feet above the Earth, when all your problems fade away?  That’s how I felt.  Only music can get you there.

Reverend Run came out to perform his classics.  I had no idea he was such a crowd manipulator.  He had the audience in his hand.  And when they ripped into "Walk This Way" we were all brought back to the eighties, when we were addicted to MTV, when we felt part of a unified culture.

And Rock did a medley with his drummer on "Half Your Age".  But what cracked me up completely was "So Hott".  Because when he hit the key line, EVERY WOMAN IN THE PLACE LOOKED UP TO THE SKY AND SANG ALONG!

The classy women behind me.  The coiffed girl in the cocktail dress blown up big on the video screen…  They all screamed:


Supposedly men are the aggressors, the predators.  But the females in the audience were identifying with this concept.  And the audience was half women, if not more.  They wanted to let go, they wanted to sweat, they wanted the music to liberate them, give them the power to make the world their own.

And yes, Rock did his routine where he plays every instrument, which at this point in time is superfluous.  But he also played a magical number entitled "Lowlife (Living The Highlife)".

I got my ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ eight-track
My best friend’s in a gun rack
I’m a lowlife
I owe everybody money
I think racist jokes are funny
I’m a lowlife
I got a dirty mind, a gutter mouth
I’m makin’ time, I’m goin’ out
With your wife

Cuz I’m a lowlife
I’m a lowlife

Kid Rock is playing a role.  Of the out of control, politically incorrect hillbilly.  But, in real life, Kid Rock is smarter than the average bear. Maybe because his father was a Lincoln dealer, because he didn’t grow up in abject poverty, it’s not solely about the money.  His goal is to make it, stay there, and ENTERTAIN!  To be a rock star!

You remember rock stars, don’t you?  These were people who were so successful, so fucking rich that they could drink Dom and snort coke every night.  Could fuck any woman they wanted.  And gave the middle finger to the man.

That’s what we all want to do…  Give the one fingered salute to those picking on us, abusing us, thinking they control us.

You’re never going to make as much money as the hedge funder.  You’re never going to be President.  But you can still pick up a guitar and try to make it as a musician.  And, if you do, you’re truly king of the world, living the highlife.  But can you continue to say no?  Can you do what’s politically incorrect?

It didn’t feel like Rock was bringing his act to Southern California but that he was bringing the assembled multitude to Detroit.  Where artifice didn’t matter, who you were was what was on the inside.  Where you wanted to go to the club and let loose.  To a band driven by a Les Paul, that remembers "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Werewolves Of London", that makes them their own.

I find it hard to stay enraptured for the entire set.  I want to leave a few numbers in.  Because the band just can’t sustain it.  But Thursday night in Universal City, Bob Ritchie BROUGHT IT!  In the same way Bob Seger always has, in the same way Bruce Springsteen does. Maybe Kid Rock’s a bit more blue collar in attitude than the Boss, but he too believes music can set you free.  And he gives it his all, carrying you on his back to the promised land.

Comments are closed