Special Reports

On a chilly night, Kid Rock warms up Wichita

About 10,000 fans braved the fierce weather to attend the Kid Rock show at Intrust Bank Arena on Tuesday night.

They had it easier than Rock's backing band, which had to drive in two blizzard-affected states. The band joined Kid Rock in concert in Tulsa on Monday, and there was concern they wouldn't arrive in time for the Wichita show.

So when Kid Rock took the stage microphone to announce the band's late arrival, it was another indication Tuesday wasn't just another night in Wichita. Kid Rock told the audience that he and the band would piece together a set list, and their performance began around 9:45, after two opening acts and about half an hour later than expected.

Kid Rock was making his third visit to Wichita in the past five years; it was his first performance at the arena and first here since performing at the Kansas Coliseum in spring 2008. His current tour is titled "Born Free," named after his most recent album, and Tuesday's show was the seventh in a run scheduled to end March 5 in Orlando.

Kid Rock first song wasn't his —"Turn the Page," by fellow Michigan native Bob Seger, rumbled the speakers, then a video showed pictures of Kid Rock during the 40 years of his life accompanied by songs from the same years.

About 15 minutes after the lights went down, Kid Rock finally emerged to sing "American Bad Ass," from 2000's "The History of Rock" album. The stage was set up to look like a saloon, and Kid Rock entered through doors under a longhorn bull design with smoking horns. Flames shot to the sides of Kid Rock, who wore a black T-shirt, blue jeans and a backward trucker hat. After the opener, he launched into Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" before the band arrived. Early on, he performed songs with the backing musicians from his opening acts.

If Kid Rock, whose real name is Robert Ritchie, had been born 20 years earlier, he might have been the face of Southern rock in its heyday of the late 1960s and 1970s. That title probably is shared by Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, but Kid Rock has revived that era while putting his stamp on it with influences from several genres.

Tuesday's show was a nod to old-time country and Southern rock, which combines element of country, bluegrass, blues and hard rock. The first opening act, Ty Stone and the Truth, featured Stone on vocals that sounded remarkably Kid Rock-like.

Stone, like Kid Rock, features an impressive vocal range without the twang of their Southern rock predecessors. Both are from Detroit and combine a blues element with a powerful voice that translates well to a harder rock sound. Stone's band, the Truth, was especially impressive on a cover of John Mellencamp's "Hurts So Good."

Second billing went to Jamey Johnson, more Nashville-influenced than Kid Rock and Stone. Johnson's early career was spent penning songs for country superstars such as Trace Adkins and George Strait. Perhaps his most recognizable composition is "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," a hit for Adkins in 2005.

Johnson's hourlong array of slow songs didn't set the stage for the rocking effort Kid Rock was set to produce, but Johnson energized the crowd with "The Ride," a song made famous by David Allan Coe. His sometimes plodding performance didn't dampen enthusiasm for Kid Rock, who received thunderous applause before and as he took the stage.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle