The words of Waylon Jennings ran through my head more times than I could count during Hank Williams, Jr.’s Red Butte set last night.
Sure, it’s not fair to compare a man to his legendary daddy under normal circumstances — but these aren’t normal circumstances. Junior has made his entire career out of name-dropping his father, who died when he was just three years old, covering his father’s songs and dumping on the rest of country music while stroking his own ego with self-referential songs.
The ego was in full effect at Red Butte on Tuesday night, when Bocephus hit the stage in a back ball cap with the word “ICON” written on it in big gold letters following a medley of shitty new country songs that reference him (Gretchen Wilson, Kid Rock, etc.).
His chatter throughout the evening seemed to serve two purposes: 1) To remind people that Hank Williams is his father and 2) To remind people that Hank Williams, Jr. really thinks that Hank Williams, Jr. is great, the best, better than everyone else.
At one point, he dumped on both Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson by declaring, “Kris is a movie star and poor Willie hangs out at Taco Bell and smokes weed all day.” But right after he propped himself up by invoking his “Dear friend Waylon Jennings” who allegedly said of Junior, “I guarantee you one thing, that son of a gun is not adopted.” (That’s double points, for a name drop and a slick reference to Daddy, for those keeping track at home.)
He also reminded the Red Butte crowd that June Carter Cash was his godmother before singing, to the tune of “I Walk The Line”: “I keep my pants up with a piece of twine … Just say you’re mine, baby yank the twine.” Yes, Hank Williams, Jr. believes he still he has sex appeal, which he attempted (and failed) to prove to the crowd by referencing his Salt Lake City groupies, air humping, stroking a fiddle at his waist and attempting to play the piano with his ass.
There was music, of course. His voice wavered and was off-tune through most of them; some were his daddy’s songs, some were his own songs, some were covers, some were vaguely racist, some were overtly so. He hit on many favorites with the crowd, “If Heaven Ain’t a Lot Like Dixie,” “Move It On Over,” “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” “Kaw-Linga,” “A Country Boy Can Survive,” “Your Cheating Heart,” and of course, “Family Tradition.”
He played a few love songs, but they, like the rest of his songs, are really just about him. The crowd favorite may have been “Keep the Change,” a conservative Christian call to arms that he wrote slamming Obama, socialists and everything else this writer holds near and dear to her heart.
Speaking of the crowd … At a time when our country appears to be collectively moving away from the Confederate flag, there was no sign of that at Red Butte on Tuesday night. Junior’s merchandise table was selling the old Confederate battle flag emblazoned with his logo (of course) and the man himself wore a hat for part of the show with it on the bill (it is worth noting that Williams changes hats during shows like Cher changes outfits).
It was a much more blue-collar crowd than one will usually find in the east benches, but seriously, this crowd hooted and hollered every time a dirt road or a country girl was mentioned like they knew what the hell he was talking about. When Junior rolled out an Al Jolson-esque impersonation of a black musician, oh, how they laughed. I’m certain that they drove home to Herriman in their Ford F-350’s with their Confederate flags still wrapped around them high fiving over the awesome night they just had. I left Red Butte angry at the insensitivity of the crowd in a state that can’t even claim heritage as the reason to continue waving the symbol of hatred and intolerance.
Williams covered Run DMC’s “Walk This Way,” in the most inexplicable moment of the night. “I play with black bands, white bands, yellow bands, red bands. I’ve even rocked out with two Yankee bands!” he declared in the same way racists claim to have black friends before seguing into Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever.”
He signed off for the night after playing “Family Tradition,” but not before an incomprehensible rant about a Sandra Bullock soundtrack and how people should kiss his ass (I tried to Google it, I still don’t know what the hell he was talking about) and this: “If you don’t like Ludacris, if you don’t like ZZ Top, if you don’t like Waylon Jennings, if you don’t like Run DMC, if you don’t like my boys Kings of Leon, if you don’t like Ray Charles, if you don’t like Fats Domino, if you don’t like Flatt and Scruggs, if you don’t like Hank Williams, you can kiss my ass!”
And then the creepiest thing I’ve EVER heard, “I know you’re going to go home and make love and I’m going to be right there with ya.”
No, Hank. Please. Your daddy didn’t do it this way.