Are You Kidding Me?

The reigning king of Southern rock in concert

Oh, my God. This song is "Freebird."

At dinner before the show, you read out loud to your companion from a few photocopied articles. The New York Times called Kid Rock "a twangy blond balladeer." The Kid Rock review in Rolling Stone dubbed the album "one of the year's best hard-rock records." They gave it four stars.

Your companion groaned.

A cowboy, baby? Kid Rock at the Fort Worth Convention Center on February 19.
Lindsay Graham
A cowboy, baby? Kid Rock at the Fort Worth Convention Center on February 19.

"That's out of five," you cautioned.

He groaned again. "Oh, yeah? I was hoping it was out of 45."

Neither of you begrudge the man his Top 40 success, but does he have to win over the critics, too? Artistic respect is what belongs to the musicians and albums you love, like The Shins' Chutes Too Narrow, which recently sold 100,000 copies. A hundred thousand--and that's good! The bands you love get dropped from major record labels, shunted to MTV2 and Internet radio while Kid Rock sells 10 million copies of Devil Without a Cause, bragging about poontang at the Playboy mansion. This is the America you have never understood. The NASCAR races. The tanning beds. The strip clubs. The dirty crotch smell of it all. You have nothing against mainstream music, but the injustice of this! Of Kid Rock! And by seeing him live, you were hoping you might understand it better. Might glimpse his talent or his charisma or--gulp!--his attractiveness.

Instead, you are bored. As the crowd sways, as the Confederate flag unfurls, as the girl in front of you pulls up her skirt to reveal her thong, her boyfriend palming her bare ass, as Kid Rock sings, "Give me the beat, boys, and free my soul/I wanna get lost in your rock and roll," you pack up your notebook and leave.

There are some things you'll never understand.

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