Prior to performing the second song of his Iowa State Fair Grandstand set Sunday night, Kid Rock warned that he wanted to ease fans into his show.
“I don’t wanna freak y’all out right at the top of the show,” Rock, born Robert James Ritchie, said.
But he was only jesting.
With an explosion from the on-stage pyrotechnics, Rock and his 11-piece band went into 2002 number “You Never Met A (expletive) Quite Like Me,” a sentiment Rock would drive home with fury during his Grandstand-closing, 100-minute, 18-song set. The highest paid act in Iowa State Fair Grandstand history, Rock, 46, kept fans on their toes as he went through a career-spanning set of tracks that blurred the lines between country, southern rock and rap.
Love him, hate him or feel completely indifferent toward him, there’s no avoiding that no one in music crosses genre lines quite like Rock. From “You Never Met …,” the performer led the leave-all-regrets-at-the-door audience through a timeline of undeniably Kid Rock tracks: “Cocky” favorite “American Badass,” 2015's “Johnny Cash" and the goofy number “Cowboy” (you know, the song where Rock declares he can smell a pig from a mile away; a feat worthy of the Iowa State Fair) all were delivered in the front-half of the set.
It was during the show’s fourth number, 1998’s “Wasting Time,” that Rock’s duo of backup singers met him at center stage to break the song bridge into a quick dance routine.
“We can do some of that Justin Bieber (expletive) too,” Rock declared before the dance.
During the back-end of the set, Rock took to flexing his musical muscles, performing on four different instruments: guitar, turntables, piano and drums. The latter proved most entertaining; Rock held down the beat while offering up back-to-back covers of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” both of which give nod to Rock’s native Michigan.
The groovy, 11-piece backing band — three guitars, DJ, drums, bass, saxophonist, keyboardist, two backing vocalists and percussionist — kept Rock tight throughout the set. A song as simple as late ‘90s ballad “Only God Knows Why” felt full and offered a level of depth not heard on the original recording, a bonus only heard when wielding an army of backing musicians. Sunday marked Rock's first time at the Iowa State Fair since headlining the Grandstand in 2004.
Following “Only God Knows Why,” Rock thanked the audience.
“I just wanna say thank you to each and every one of you for spending your hard earned money to come and watch us play for you tonight,” Rock said before leading the band through “Born Free.” The top ticket to get into Sunday's show cost $90 before fees.
Headlines have swirled around Rock for the last month amid speculations that the Detroit-area resident would be throwing his hat in the ring for a U.S. senate seat during the 2018 mid-term elections. A vocal supporter of Mitt Romney in 2012 and President Donald Trump during the 2016 election, Rock launched kidrockforsenate.com earlier this year but has yet to declare his candidacy.
Aside from selling “Kid Rock for U.S. Senate” shirts at $25 apiece and running a brief photo of President Trump during an in-song photo collage, Rock kept politics out of his Iowa show. That was until the bridge of “Born Free,” when he decided to share his thoughts on the upcoming National Football League season.
At that moment, the singer delivered a short message for NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49er gained attention in 2016 for protesting the National Anthem prior to games.
“Football’s about ready to start,” he said. “You know what? (expletive) Colin Kaepernick.”
From “Born Free,” Rock brought out the night’s softest number, “Picture,” before cutting the track mid-way to bring fans the night’s most aggressive number, “Bawitdaba.” After bringing home the pyrotechnic-laced seminal number, Rock and his group exited the stage only to return for a two-song encore, starting with one of Rock’s newest single, “Po-Dunk.”
Rock spent his last moments on stage looking to get one more laugh for his Iowa faithful.
“You sound a little tired,” he joked. “The only thing we gotta do tomorrow is watch the damn eclipse.”
Earning a few chuckles, Rock closed the evening with a rendition of traditional rock ‘n’ roll number “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” Fireworks then exploded from beyond the Grandstand, marking an end to another year at the Iowa State Fair.