Saturday, July 4, 2009
Fourth on Flagler, West Palm Beach
Opportunity struck for Kevin Rudolf at this Fourth of July showcase, a chance to deploy an abbreviated set of songs from In The City, his solo debut. Best known for production work with the likes of Lil Wayne and Nelly Furtado, Rudolf has his own brand of pop-rock that veers toward the crunchy/dumb end of the spectrum, tightly-wound blue-collar mini-anthems perfect for 15-year-olds to raise skinny fists to.
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That's exactly who showed up to see what Rudolf is all about , and the performer catered to their needs with surgical specificity. Though he begged for beers onstage and a date for his drummer, he not only refrained from cursing, his keyboard player delivered a lost-kid-come-find-your-mommy announcement. If Rudolf wasn't comfortable at such a family-friendly event, it didn't show.
Instead, Rudolf and his back-up band (all in frat-boy-esque uniform of jeans, t-shirt, and brand-new ball cap) ran through their short set disregarding the stench of stale beer and overflowing Porta-Potties. Although the success of Rudolf's megahit single "Let It Rock" is largely due to Lil Wayne's guest turn on the track, the space-age rapper never appeared live; instead Rudolf was joined by a high-energy back-up man who dispensed mono-syllabic exhortations: "Whoo! Whoa! Yo! Yeah! Get 'em up!" which the kids naturally ate up. "Grab someone you love - or someone you don't know," Rudolf advised before breaking out his lone acoustic guitar power ballad.
The rest of the set list consisted of pedestrian rock anthems with a hip-hop edge. Rudolf wielded his jet-black Les Paul adeptly, his power chords drowning out the cheesy synth riffs proffered by his keyboardist/laptopper, especially when he busted out "Let It Rock," which obviously all the kids were there to hear. Overtly catchy if simplistic, with its provocative "When I arrive, I will bring the fire/make you come ... alive!" tagline, "Let it Rock" is the kind of seasonal blockbuster that's perfect for a July Fourth bash, nestled snugly against a cooler full of Coors Light, charcoal-grilled hotdogs and a bitchin' Camaro. After the blazing fireworks finale that red-glared over the Intracoastal, "Let it Rock" offered a handy amalgam of AC/DC and Timbaland, just the kind of sultry-evening refreshment a 15-year-old will probably remember as the highlight of summer vacation.
-- Jeff Stratton