TORONTO - The south did not rise again on Monday night at the Molson Amphitheatre but it might as well have. Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd set the bar mighty high for main act Kid Rock with a downright ferocious hour-and-10-minute set that truly riled up the sold-out crowd.
The band, which was virtually wiped out in 1977 in a plane crash that killed four members including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, has been fronted by his younger brother Johnny since that time but the late bandmates were not forgotten during the set-ending and concert high point Free Bird with their pictures displayed prominently on a backdrop during a montage sequence.
Skynyrd, now a nine piece act that includes three guitar players, opened with What's Your Name but hit their stride with Mr. Saturday Night Special and kept fans' fists pumping with That Smell, and the moving ballad Simple Kind Of Man, which featured footage of U.S. soldiers.
Confederate flags adorned both Billy Powell's white and rotating piano (along with a gold eagle it has to be said) and the top of Van Zant's microphone which the singer often held high in the air.
And when it came time to dis Northerner Neil Young in the Skynyrd classic, Sweet Home Alabama, the hometown crowd didn't hold back one bit.
"Canada, I do believe the sound of the south will raise again," exclaimed Van Zant in amazement.
Kid Rock, meanwhile, may hail from Detroit but he had his own southern secret weapon in the form of Arkansas-born, Ontario-based Ronnie Hawkins (a.k.a. The Hawk) who appeared as a surprise guest to sing Who Do You Love?
I have to say seeing Kid Rock, who incorporates equal parts rap, rock, country, gospel and soul into his genre-bending sound, at a much more intimate setting last October at Kool Haus, spoiled me.
But he rose to the occasion more often than not at the outdoor shed, particularly when performing material from his best-selling latest abum, Rock N Roll Jesus, including the title track which kicked off his hour-and-35-minute show.
Backed by the same dynamite 10-piece outfit that he brought to Toronto with him last year, Kid Rock wasted no time flexing his muscles with the powerful You've Never Met A MF Quite Like Me, Cocky and new songs Lowlife and All Summer Long, the latter which samples Sweet Home Alabama and garnered the biggest response of the night, paved the way for women in the audience to start removing their tops later in the show.
Still, despite his testosterone-fuelled schtick, Kid Rock does have a sensitive side as he demonstrated on the new song Amen, during which he convinced audience members to introduce themselves to each other, the U.S. troops salute, Only God Knows Why, and the pretty duet Picture (which featured one of his backup singers taking over the Sherl Crow part).
It wasn't too long though before he was back to mining his bravado on such songs as Cowboy, Half Your Age, which disses his former Canadian wife Pamela Anderson, So Hott, and a hook up with another guest, Reverend Run, for a Run-DMC medley including It's Like That and a cover of Aerosmith's Walk This Way.
Also noteworthy on Monday night was British blues-psychedelic rock trio Back Door Slam - featuring amazing guitarist-singer Davy Knowles from Isle Of Man - who managed to invoke the spirit of both Jimi Hendrix and Cream in a powerful half-hour opening set.
Pencil them in as an act to watch.
SUN RATING: 4.5 out of 5