(The Des Moines Register) – Are you ready for some political commentary?
Country legend Hank Williams Jr. played to a crowd of nearly 8,500 at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand Friday night.
You may recall, criticism of President Barack Obama on a Fox News program last year led to ESPN dropping Williamsâ€™ â€œMonday Night Footballâ€ theme song after 22 years. Friday, Williams shot barbs at Obama, ESPN and â€œFox & Friendsâ€ in his opening song â€œKeep the Changeâ€ before launching into â€œAll My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,â€ the basis for the â€œMNFâ€ theme.
Williams was lively and over the top, strolling the stage, strumming his guitar, sawing on his fiddle and hammering on the piano during a nearly two hour set. Performing is in Williams blood, and the lineage of talent was on clear display.
He paid tributes to those roots, telling the crowd stories of growing up in a house where it wasnâ€™t unusual to find Fats Domino, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and others over for dinner. Williams showed a knack for mimicry, performing a version of his dadâ€™s â€œYour Cheatinâ€™ Heartâ€ as in the style of Domino and a version of Lewisâ€™s â€œWhole Lotta Shakinâ€™ Goinâ€™ Onâ€ that included Williams playing the piano with both his boots and his booty.
He unapologetically refers to himself as a dinosaur, as evidenced by the song of the same name. Of course, â€œDinosaurâ€ was written when he was 30, and Williams is 63 now. Heâ€™s made it a long way for a supposedly extinct animal, and from the vitality he showed Friday night he will likely survive another age or two.
He also used the song as a great segue to his dadâ€™s â€œTear in My Beer.â€ Even though heâ€™s been gone nearly 60 years, Hank Williams still casts a long shadow. Jr. is clearly his own man, but heâ€™s wisely not running from his legacy. The younger Williams is just one of a generation of country singers who owe as much to Hank Williams as rock singers owe to Elvis.
For a good portion of the concert it seemed like Williams had moved beyond issues of politics and was putting the focus on the Bocephus party. But those made their way back into the show in a much more straightforward way later in the set.
Following the song â€œWe Donâ€™t Apologize For Americaâ€ a chant of â€œUSA, USAâ€ broke out amongst the crowd. Williams smiled, telling the crowd that he was their mouth piece and adding:
â€œWeâ€™ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the US and we hate him!â€
The cheers that followed were loud and enthusiastic.
When reached for comment Saturday, Brad Anderson with the Obama campaign in Iowa said in an email, “That type of absurd nonsense doesn’t really deserve a response.”
Williams closed his set with an extended tradition of â€œFamily Traditionâ€ before performing a segment of Kris Kristoffersonâ€™s â€œIf You Donâ€™t Like Hank Williamsâ€ letting the world know that if you donâ€™t like his dad, or him, or Johnny Cash or Kid Rock, Van Halen or others, you can kiss his â€¦
The part of him he used to play piano earlier. And not his boots.