Kid Rock got political Wednesday night in a warm-up show ahead of his big Detroit concert run — as political as he’s ever gotten onstage.
But he still offered no definitive word about any U.S. Senate run.
Instead, playing for a high-energy capacity crowd at Van Andel Arena, the metro Detroit-born star worked up a theatrical, rhyming, profanity-filled stump speech of sorts, knocking everything from “deadbeat dads” to those who “take a knee” during the national anthem.
The speech, preceded by “Hail to the Chief” and delivered at a podium with a pair of flag-waving female dancers at his side, turned out to be prelude to a performance of his song “You’ve Never Met a Motherf----- Quite Like Me.”
The Grand Rapids crowd, many holding aloft smartphones to document the moment, cheered most of Rock’s big applause lines as he laid out his views: He applauded single moms but bemoaned those who “can’t even take care of themselves but keep having kid after … kid.” He blasted those who “call me a racist ‘cause I’m not (politically correct),” adding that they "think you have to remind me that black lives matter." And he snarled: “Nazi f------ bigots and the KKK, screw all you ass-----, stay the f--- away.”
He neared the end of his speech by saying: "If 'Kid Rock for Senate' has got folks in disarray, wait 'til they hear 'Kid Rock for President of the U.S.A.'!"
The moment came early in a show featuring a completely overhauled set and stage production for Rock, who will open Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena next week with a six-show run.
In some ways, Wednesday started like so many of Rock’s home-state show nights through the years: fans boisterously streaming into a venue ready for a rock-rap-country party. But it also came with a new and palpable context, with Rock sitting squarely in the thick of the political conversation since teasing a Senate run and becoming a cultural lightning rod.
Rock has found himself under increasing fire from some quarters in recent years for his past use of the Confederate flag onstage. His vocal support of Donald Trump – as candidate and president – has only fueled that backlash in a contentious political era. He also was widely criticized for comments he made at an August concert in Iowa about the NFL's Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem. Later in the Grand Rapids show, Rock told the audience he is not backing down from his take on the quarterback.
The National Action Network's Detroit chapter has said it plans to picket Rock's Detroit shows, and earlier in the day had called on the Ilitches' Olympia Entertainment to cancel the concerts.
In lines outside the Grand Rapids arena, a smattering of "Kid Rock for US Senate '18" shirts could be spotted on arriving concertgoers. Inside, many more were grabbed up at merch stands for $30 each. Fans tossed them on and made their way around the venue amid the vintage "American Badass" gear and occasional "Make America Great Again" caps.
Fans interviewed by the Free Press said they were excited and intrigued by the prospect of a Kid Rock Senate run — but mostly they were here for a night of good times and music with an artist most of them had seen in concert multiple times.
In his most explicit pronouncement on the matter, Rock said in late July he was still exploring the possibility of running and that he'd address the issue in six weeks — which brings us to this week.
Wednesday's Van Andel Arena show was the first of three warm-up dates as Rock readies for his stand at Little Caesars Arena, which he’ll kick off Tuesday. From Grand Rapids, he and his Twisted Brown Trucker Band will head to Fort Wayne, Ind. (Friday) and Evansville, Ind. (Saturday).