When he first started planning for his 40th birthday, Kid Rock thought about a vacation with a few close friends.
Instead he’ll be celebrating with more than 50,000 this weekend at Detroit’s Ford Field.
“After I realized nobody was going to throw me a party,” notes Rock, who actually turns 40 on Monday, Jan. 17, “I said, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be fun to do a concert somewhere in the city and celebrate it with the people who give me so much love (and) that I’ve tried to give as much love as I can back to throughout the years and celebrate it with them?’ ”
And befitting the nature of the event, the Clarkston-based Rock (real name Bob Ritchie) is promising “something special and a little bit different” than his usual shows — and from the concerts he’ll play when he begins touring in earnest to promote his latest album, “Born Free,” Jan. 21 in Saginaw.
Even before he announced the birthday concert on Oct. 30, Rock — who pokes some fun at the landmark on the song “Forty” from the “Racing Father Time” EP that came out alongside “Born Free” — put the call out to a wide array of friends and colleagues in the music world for a lineup of “as many guests as I can get to come in.” He notes that “you can probably guess most of them,” but the selection ranges from those he’s recorded with (Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride, Zac Brown, fellow Detroit icon Bob Seger, former Twisted Brown Trucker hype man Uncle Kracker) to past tour partners (Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons, Peter Wolf, members of Aerosmith) to just good pals such as Hank Williams Jr., Ted Nugent, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Jamey Johnson.
One insider promises that Rock has “a pretty nice list of surprises lined up,” and he and his Twisted Brown Trucker band have been rehearsing a wide range of material to accommodate even last-minute participants.
“I want to get those people to come in and make it a different kind of concert, almost like a celebration of music and our city and all the good things down here (in Detroit),” explains Rock, who was also planning a Comedy Central roast at the Fox Theatre for his actual birthday, which will now take place some time later this year.
“Y’know,” he continues, “I got so many nice, kind words when I played Comerica (Park, in 2009), the two shows, people who were working down here in their bars, just saying, ‘Thanks, I can keep my bar or restaurant alive for another year’... It was very strong and powerful, and I thought, ‘Man, this is another opportunity to do something downtown.”
Rock has more than just a birthday to celebrate, of course. “Born Free,” his 10th album and follow-up to 2007’s triple-platinum “Rock N Roll Jesus,” debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart when it came out in mid-November and has so far sold more than 640,000 copies. Reviews for the Rick Rubin-produced set, a more organic and earthier album than its predecessors, have been strong, and it was named one of the 50 best albums of 2010 by Rolling Stone magazine. The title track charted on the Mainstream Rock and Country charts, and Rock’s TV run included performances on the American Music Awards and Country Music Association Awards, as well as halftime of the Detroit Lions’ annual Thanksgiving Day game.
And Rock surprised those watching the American Music Awards with an acoustic version of “Times Like These,” the Detroit-boosting track from “Born Free” that Rock premiered at the Comerica Park shows.
“I kind of know the gist of the American Music Awards, and they’re very pop oriented — people not playing their instruments, fireworks going off with 18 dancers and all this stuff,” Rock explains. “I just thought (‘Times Like These’) would be very powerful and make a big statement ... Not only is it written about Detroit and meant to be an inspirational, true tale about our city, but ... people will relate that to their hometowns, to whatever’s going on wherever they’re at.
“It was just nice to throw it in there. When everybody’s going this way, I like to go as fast as I can the other way.”
The performance also reminded a worldwide audience of Rock’s loyalty and fidelity to his hometown — as if that was a surprise anymore.
“I’m a Detroit ambassador whether I like it or not,” acknowledges the owner of the Made In Detroit clothing line and the American Badass beer brand, along with his charitable Kid Rock Foundation. “They definitely get it around the country; a lot of times I read (reviews) and they say, ‘OK, we get it. You’re from Detroit. Cut it out ... ’
“It’s just that I really want to carry that flag and do everything I can ’cause there’s so much style in this city. There’s more style in this city than anywhere I’ve been in the world, and just hard-working people and great history here ... I just want to go out and, I guess, kind of rally people.
“Kid Rock is a very good brand.”
Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker band will be doing that in the coming months as they set out across the country and, they hope, the world, to promote “Born Free” with shows that won’t necessarily have the guest-laden juice of this weekend’s birthday bash but which Rock says will be different in their own right.
“The last few years ... it was kind of strip everything down and go on the merit of the music,” Rock explains. “Before that I didn’t have a lot of songs, so what do we do? We get some fire, we get some strippers, we make things very interesting to catch the eye and keep people coming back.
“Now that I have such a catalog to pull from, I’m like ... ‘I’ve got the music, now let me give the people something to see.’ We’re going to take out a (stage) set. I want to take people through this musical journey, just up and down. Yes, there will be some stripped-down portions of the show — and strippers. A show for the entire family!”
Kid Rock & Twisted Brown Trucker and Ty Stone & The Truth perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, at Ford Field in downtown Detroit. Tickets are sold out. Call 313-262-2167 or visit www.livenation.com. Twisted Brown Trucker’s Paradime will host an after-concert party at begins at 9 p.m. at the Elysium Lounge, 625 Shelby Ave., Detroit. Cover is $10, $5 with a ticket stub from the concert. Call 313-962-2244 or visit or visit www.elysium-lounge.com.
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