One was an exercise in instant gratification, the other a case study in baiting and denying. Given that each description fits either Kid Rock’s show at the RBC Center or Ghostface Killah’s set four hours later at the Cat’s Cradle, it’s not difficult to assign the appropriate assessment to the correct performer.
Kid Rock played the hits, front to back. His Twisted Brown Trucker band came out to the intro of his first big single, “Bawitdaba,” each member being introduced in turn before Rock emerged on the second level of the stage, wearing a full-length, jewel-encrusted coat. During the next two hours and the subsequent dual encores, he gave the fans what they wanted, pausing only to deliver a 15-minute musical salute to his heroes mid-set, covering Bill Withers’ “Give Me the Beat” before segueing into The Ramones into RUN-D.M.C. into Lynyrd Skynyrd. Rock put his instrumental skills to task, too, playing the turntables with his feet before taking guitar, keyboard and drums solos. The guy played exactly to his audience, employing pole dancers, rebel flags and yells, and heavy use of the word “motherfucker.” Remember, if you can’t be smart, you should be fun. He gets that in a big way, and he should be respected for it, at least. Live, the dude–somewhat of a joke, even to his most faithful (and underdressed) fans–is kind of incredible, in an incredulous way.
For his last Cradle appearance in November, Wu-Tang Clan don Ghostface was energetic but lazy, resting on his W-TC laurels and yielding most of the night to Trife Da God, Cappadonna and his own tardiness. But Friday, he was all over it, working hard and busting his ass. He repeatedly thanked the audience, moving through bits of his entire discography and avoiding several of his hits in a tired voice, betraying the month-long tour and hussle he’s been on for the release of his brilliant new Fishscale. Throughout the night, people requested “Kilo,” the catchiest song on that record, all sassy soul chorus and manic verses about cooking coke in the kitchen. But Ghost only teased it, his entourage shouting bits of that chorus and chuckling at the denial and the fans’ concommitant disappointment. With Ghost, you pay for what he gives you. And it’s really fun guesswork.
Recognize that Kid Rock deserves to be more than the tail end of bad jokes, and Ghostface deserves a world that loves hip hop with more than hooks. Neither will ever have either.