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Despite Kid Rock drama, Little Caesars Arena has big opening

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- Relaxing into his venue-opening concert at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday night, Sept. 12, Kid Rock told that crowd that “(it) ain’t nothin’ but a party, y’all.”

It was a little more than that, of course.

The opening of the $863 million, state-of-the-art venue, the spoke of a new District development in Detroit, would have been big enough news in its own right. But thanks to Rock’s still-undetermined run for U.S. Senate and protests both against and in favor of him outside the arena, it was a charged evening with enough drama that the actual arena opening was nearly eclipsed.

Nevertheless, it turned out to be a winning night for all concerned.

Thanks to a strong law enforcement presence, the protests went off peacefully with the opposing protesters -- some chanting “No justice, no pizza!” -- kept on separate sides of the building. And the arena itself lived up to its pre-opening accolades, highly functioning on its first night with Disney-friendly staff -- including Olympia Entertainment chief Tom Wilson, who was pressing the flesh with patrons like a candidate himself -- attending to concertgoers visibly wowed by its amenities and features, from ample food choices to historic memorabilia and images throughout the concourses.

Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker band, meanwhile, delivered the promised party, with a characteristically two-hour-plus show that contained a few surprises and also showcased the colored lighting scheme of the arena’s roof, which helped envelope the crowd as if it was inside the concert rather than merely watching it.

What Rock did not do on Tuesday was make his political intentions any clearer. Though there was plenty of Kid Rock For Senate merchandise available, and though his publicist promised the Romeo native, who resides part-time in Clarkston, would be giving his fans exclusive insight on his political views and aspirations for Michigan while on stage,” Rock did not reveal his intentions.

Instead, following an opening “Greatest Show On Earth” that featured carnival performers and finale-style pyrotechnics, Rock delivered a fierce, rhyming and rambling speech -- similar to one he gave last week in Grand Rapids and to recent blog posts on his web site -- that addressed issues such as welfare, health insurance, LBGTQ rights, race relations, deadbeat fathers and more and slammed both white supremacist groups and those who consider him racist. “I do believe it to be self-evident we are all created equal,” Rock declared. “I said it once, I’ll scream it again. I love black people and I love white people too, but neither as much as I love red, white and blue.”

Rock also teased the idea of running for an even higher office, telling the clearly partisan crowd that, “If Kid Rock For Senator has got some folks in disarray, wait ‘til they hear Kid Rock For President of the U.S.A. ‘Cause wouldn’t it be a sight to see, President Kid Rock in Washington, D.C., standing on the desk of the Oval Office like a G, holding my dick ready to address the whole country,” leading into his 2002 song “You Never Met A Motherf***er Quite Like Me.” He addressed the protests as well rapping during “Cowboy” that, “I like all kinds of people, black, brown, yellow, white. Let there be no doubt about that. If anyone wants to protest tonight, tell ‘em they can protest these nuts,” pointing to his genitalia. He then saluted law enforcement offices for keeping the peace.

He was pleased to be opening the arena, too. At the end of “American Bad Ass” he displayed a photo of Little Caesars and Olympia Entertainment Mike Ilitch, saying, “You’ll always be a true badass. Detroit loves you.” During the encore, meanwhile, Rock -- who’s branded a Kid Rock’s Made In Detroit restaurant in the venue -- he later told the crowd that “We as a band are extremely honored and humbled to be the first top play here. We hope you saw how hard we worked to put on the greatest show we can for you.”

With a distinctly clear sound mix and plenty of additional pyrotechnics and more than half a dozen outfit changes, Rock treated LCA’s opening night crowd to an array of favorites such as “Wastin’ Time,” “Cowboy,” “Picture” and solid pairings of “Cocky” with “All Summer Long” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Jesus” with “Only God Knows Why.” He also covered Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” while the opening act Sweet Tea Trio joined him for the country-flavored “Good Time Lookin’” and Uncle Kracker made a guest appearance to sing “Drift Away” as a memorial to deceased musicians from past couple of years, whose photos were displayed on the rear-stage video screen.

And rather than the traditional closing of “Bawitdaba,” Rock and his crew came back for a rendition of Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” before which he read a prepared thank-you to construction workers “who built this place,” as well as the Ilitch organization, the city of Detroit and its taxpayers, Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores for moving the team back into the city and his own road crew.

Rock has five more shows at the arena, through Sept. 20. Tickets are still available for all; Call 313-471-7000 Visit olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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