Sound — 9
In the music world, it becomes immediately obvious if an artist is a triple threat of sorts -- excelling in writing, recording, and live performance. There are plenty of singers who rely on all the gadgets in the studio to improve the quality of their music, and when those individuals hit the stage you can feel the unpolished awkwardness exude from their stage show. Say what you will about Kid Rock's rap-rock-country brand of music, the man has a natural gift when it comes to performing live. On his latest CD release "Live Trucker," a compilation of recorded performances between 2000 and 2001, Kid Rock and The Twisted Brown Trucker Band put on a diverse and well-rounded show that rarely loses steam. If you haven't seen Kid Rock live before, you are very likely to have a newfound respect for the man after hearing or seeing his stage show. A lot of singers would not dare venture far beyond one vocal mic and maybe a rhythm guitar, but Kid Rock does everything on the 14 tracks, from playing guitar, drums, and piano to busting out on the turntables. The first track, "Son Of Detroit," is a good indication of what you're about to hear throughout the rest of "Live Trucker." Kid Rock comes off as a confident performer with impressive rapping skills and songs that live up to his self-described "cocky" way of life. But it's the accompanying musicians that make it a memorable show. A prominent solo by pianist Jimmie Bones is featured in this very first song, a bold move that many singers would not dare do in the first song. The rap does get a big heavy at times, but to Kid Rock's credit, he always adds a little something different in the mix to keep it interesting. Before heading straight into "Cowboy," he adds a laid-back intro showcasing subtle guitar riffs, piano, and a haunting slide guitar. This little intro even garnered perhaps the most amusing reaction from the crowd when Kid Rock sings, "You can tell all the critics I'm back from the dead; F--k Clay Aiken and Radiohead." It's always fun to hear a crowd eat up such a little sentiment. For the most part, the audio is vibrant and makes you feel like you are at a venue for the whole production. Kid Rock's vocals come through loud and clear in all of his raps, which is for most of the CD. However, when he starts to sing in a softer manner, his vocals seem a bit too distant. This is the case in both "Picture" and "Outstanding," which is unfortunate because the latter of the two is one of the best tracks on the CD despite the sound issue.
Lyrics — 9
When you listen to Kid Rocks' rap lyrics, it's probably safe to assume that you'll love 'em or hate 'em. In the context of a live show, when audiences react with such passion, even the cockiest of lyrics are fun to hear. Given that Kid Rock was influenced by legendary rap artists, any statement that seem over the top just seem to be more of a tribute to the rap genre in general. So when you hear a song like "Devil With A Cause," you'll find yourself smiling with amusement or growling while taking offense. "I went from St. Claire Shores and drink specials at Winners; To New York City and 700 dollar dinners; From hanging with sinners and second hand cheap sex; To getting much respect from top record execs." Thankfully, Kid Rock is smart enough to show different facets to himself in his lyrics. His country-doused single "Picture" paints the picture of a man who has more feelings than one might assume. "I can't understand why we're living life this way; I found your picture today; I swear I'll change my ways; I just called to say I want you to come back home." In the live show, Kid Rock does not shy away from giving full attention to his ballads. He makes just as big of a production as with the rap tunes, just in a different manner. For "Picture," he brings out country star Gretchen Wilson (taking the place of the recording's original singer, Sheryl Crow).
Overall Impression — 9
While most bands rely on the music sounding exactly as it's played on their records -- and that's fine for many fans -- Kid Rock enhances his music by showcasing a series of talented musicians and singers that might not have been heard on the original recordings. Combined with the fact that Kid Rock can play guitar, piano, drums, and turntables on top of his vocals, Live Trucker is a pretty complete live CD. Former sidekick rapper Joe C, who died in 2000 of complications from coeliac disease, is heard in a few songs on the CD and giving bittersweet, yet memorable performances. Kid Rock could have selected one of his more current concerts that took placed after Joe C passed away for the CD, but admirably he was intent on adding in the 2000 shows that still featured the 3'9 performer. For listeners who like their rock straightforward and rap-free, Live Trucker will probably not get passed the first few tracks. But there is plenty to appreciate in Kid Rock's stage show, particularly considering he maintains his vocal strength better than most rockers and rappers who hit the stage these days. He definitely has more power in his rapping than in his ballad work, which is probably the only drawback of the CD. If you're looking to catch a stage show but just don't have the dough to shell out $50 for bad seats, Live Trucker might just get you by for now. And don't forget to get out your lighters -- you'll even get a tiny taste of "Free Bird."