It's apparently never too late for a self-styled Pimp of the Nation to turn a few new tricks.
As he plotted his latest concert tour, Kid Rock felt some major changes were in order for the way he'd been doing things on stage. "I really just said, 'Let's take some of this money that we've been spending on blowing things up and having girls dance in cages and let's up the musical level a little more'," explains the Romeo-born rocker, who now resides in Clarkston.
That led to Rock's Rock 'N' Roll Revival, a show that's part concert, part revue and a little bit revival meeting infused with the genuine spirit of belief in musical salvation. The pyrotechnics and dancing girls and video screens are gone; the fireworks now come from an expanded version of Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker Band and from guests such as J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf, former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts and Run-DMC's Rev. Run (Joseph Simmons), who appear as part of the show rather than opening acts.
"When we started this, nobody was sure how it would work," says Twisted Brown Trucker DJ/hype man Paradime. "But after the first night, it was like, 'Oh, yeah, this is the (stuff)!' "
Rock (real name Bob Ritchie) refers to the Rock 'N' Roll Revival -- which is supporting his first-ever No. 1 album, "Rock N Roll Jesus" -- as "just a wild idea that's working really, really well. There's something going on here I don't think any of us realize yet. There's something bigger than all of us that's going on on the stage. It's crazy. It's history. It's magic. It's unbelievable."
It's also a welcome return to musical focus after an eventful fall of 2007 that saw Rock go through an arduous divorce (after four separate marriage ceremonies) from Pamela Anderson, a punch-up with Motley Crue's Tommy Lee, another Anderson ex, at the MTV Music Video Awards in Los Angeles and a late-night fight at a Waffle House in Atlanta, in which charges and civil suits are still being sorted out.
"I just really looked at everything and got it back to what I really love -- music," says Rock, whose son Robert Jr. is a high school freshman. "It's tough in this day and age, 'cause I am somebody who's out there and has fun and doesn't really hide, and now everyone's got a camera phone and this, that and the other.
"So whenever you do something that's even minimally like news, it's out there and all over the place in a flash. You just have to deal with it."
The Rock N Roll Revival is his primary concern now, though. The show's concept, explains Rock, was inspired by the DVD of the '60s "T.A.M.I. Show" and by the multi-act package tours of the '50s and '60s. "Chuck Berry comes on, then the Beach Boys come on, then James Brown comes on, then the Rolling Stones come on...," recalls Rock, 37. "I'm like, 'God, that's cool. You don't see that any more. And if you do it's, like, pop acts at some pop radio show.
"I was like, "Man, what if we do a [i]real[/i] rock 'n' roll thing and just get the cast of characters. We could get a cool rapper and play some great, old school hip-hop and we could play some great classic rock music and then throw in some Southern rock or some great country stuff and then just have music-filled, great nights."
And with a reputation for never finding a stage he didn't like to barge onto, Rock is uniquely qualified for such an endeavor.
"I've played with so many people in so many circumstances," he acknowledges. "I think what I'm best at, out of everything I do, is bringing people together, from all walks of life. And that's exactly what this tour is."
The guest selections weren't hard. Rock and Run have been friends for years and are planning to record an album, titled "Riding With the Kid," this spring. Besides getting to perform a set of Run-DMC material, Rock notes that touring with the clean-living rapper -- who leads the entourage in a prayer before each show -- "kinda keeps my head together and calms me down."
"It's nice; he blesses the stage and the event and that everyone has a good time, then I go out and sing dirty songs for two hours," Rock adds with a laugh.
Wolf, long embraced as a homeboy even though the J. Geils Band hails from Boston, exerts no such influence. Backstage at Van Vandel Arena in Grand Rapids, he talks about a long night-off with Rock back in Oakland County, hitting a Detroit Pistons game and seeing the sun rise after a trip to a nearby bar.
But as he walks around the dressing room, smacking fists with each of the Twisted Brown Trucker musicians, Wolf is clearly enthused to be part of proceedings.
"It's a good connection," he says. "It's very musical. We all come from the same place. Everybody goes out there and plays hard and really tries to make each show a special thing."
That's only inspired Rock to keep the Revival going for the foreseeable future. The current leg of the tour is booked into late March, and after a promotional trip to Europe in the spring, Rock is planning outdoor dates for the summer in both North America and Europe, with even more guests coming in and out of the lineup.
"There's so many people who could be part of this," he says. "It could be the Stevie Nicks or Sheryl Crows [cq] or Gretchen Wilsons [cq]. It could be some of the country cats. There's a lot of classic rock cats out there, and guitar players. A lot of rappers have already expressed interest, just a lot of great people who fit right into this.
"I see TV specials and possibly TV shows and DVDs and live recordings. It really is endless when you think of the possibilities."
Kid Rock and the Twisted Brown Trucker Band, with special guests Rev. Run, Peter Wolf and Dickey Betts, perform at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Feb. 8 and 9) at Joe Louis Arena, 600 Civic Center Drive. Tickets are $45, $38.50 and $26.50. Call (313) 471-6606 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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