Leader of the Pack
Last weekend was a busy one for Western Pennsylvanians. Especially those with a taste of good old, hard driving rock and roll. The sonic pleasures were many and quite varied. Long-time arena rockers Foreigner played a nearly sold-out show at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg. Alt-country singer Paul Luc returned to the Pittsburgh area to play a date at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale. But the center of attention was rightly focused on rapper/rocker Kid Rock whose latest tour, the highly ambitious American Rock and Roll Tour, is helmed by the highly regarded stage manager Clay Hutson.
Before we dive deeper into the Kid Rock’s extravaganza and the parade of challenges Hutson is tasked with managing, let’s first recap the drama and controversy that has led up to the tour.
On Thin Ice with NHL Fans
In January, the National Hockey League’s decision to headline the All-star hockey game on the 28th was met with criticism and outrage. His reputation for controversial statements and imagery had simply left a bad taste in the mouths of too many hockey fans.
Rocking the Vote
Another instance of Kid Rock’s penchant for outrageous behavior was his ‘bid’ for senate that took place last fall. Despite a website and all manner of decorations announcing his run for a seat in 2018, he would later admit that he had no serious intentions of running or serving.
In typically understated fashion, Kid Rock was quoted as saying, F- no, I’m not running.” It’s not clear how seriously he was taken by the voting public as a whole, but it does appear that some members of the Michigan GOP were eager to see such a run take place.
Michigan resident and Republican national Committee member Robert Steele had this to say in response to early rumors of Kid Rock’s senatorial bid:
“People know him — he’s an extremely strong brand in Michigan. He’s fought for Detroit, he’s fought hard for kids who want to go to his concerts, he’s fought hard for the working class, he’s a southeast Michigan booster through and through.”
He added, “If he were in the race, I think he would win. But I doubt we’ll see him in the race.”
In the end, Kid Rock wasn’t in the race, of course. According to some sources, the early talks of his running were started by the GOP, and not picked up by the rapper/rocker until later. The ‘campaign’ served as a successful way to garner attention for the tour he was gearing up for.
Greatest Tour Name on Earth
Kid Rock’s current tour was initially dubbed, The Greatest Show on Earth. But the legal team of Feld Entertainment Group, owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey got wind of the moniker, a lawsuit ensued.
Kid Rock could be forced to pay damages for having used name in the past. For the time being, the name of his tour has been changed to the lawsuit-free the American Tour.
The good news for Kid Rock fans – regardless of the tour’s name, the concert dates will go on as scheduled.
The Band Plays On
With an intense build up of controversy, the American Tour has rolled on to the delight of millions. And while those onstage deserve an extraordinary amount of credit for rocking on despite a flurry for distraction. However, one behind-the-scenes name must also be mentioned. Clay Hutson.
Providing technical support for a large arena show is nothing new for Hutson. His resume as a stage manager and production manager reads like a who’s who of popular music for the last few decades. He’s worked for Prince, Guns N’ Roses, Garbage and Kanye West.
In addition to dealing with the distractions provided by Kid Rock’s antics, Hutson has a gigantic task ahead of him. The Michigan-born rocker/rapper’s stage show does not seem to be a small one.
If there are any doubts about Hutson’s readiness to meet the challenge of a gargantuan stage show, the stage manager’s own words from a recent interview should silence those doubts. When asked about the latest technological advances for larger-than-life arena shows, Hutson doesn’t sound intimidated at all. New opportunities are exciting to Hutson.
“The industry is constantly cutting-edge. If you sit back on your heels for too long, you’ll quickly become obsolete, already three versions of a product behind. The size and power of moving lights have gotten to be incredible. They weigh less than they used to, allowing them to become more mobile.”
When it comes to making the most of a rock and roll spectacle Hutson is all for it. Expressing a fondness for musical performers who throw themselves completely into the performance. “I especially enjoy artists like Pink, and Lady Gaga, who incorporate a lot of acrobatics, and aerial stunts, into their routines. It’s great to see artists push their art. It’s not just about the music, it’s also about the art form, and how they express themselves.”
While it’s not clear how much of Hutson’s words are a specific reflection on his recent work on Kid Rock’s tour. Anyone eager to find out what Hutson has been up to will have plenty of opportunities to find out. The American Rock and Roll Tour is rolling on through August 2018.