Bob Seger was never the most glamorous or trendiest of rockers, but his classic, blue-collar rock may have more staying power than the music of many of his contemporaries from the '60s and '70s. On the homestretch of a tour that started in November and winds up next week in Seger's Detroit stomping ground, the singer-songwriter packed Value City Arena last night for a long, satisfyingly varied and energetic concert.
Wearing glasses, a baggy black T-shirt, jeans, and -- bless his heart -- a black headband restraining his white hair, Seger looked every one of his 61 years and seemed to be having the time of his life. He's the least aloof rock star imaginable, and maybe the one who leaves the least distance between himself and his fans. Pumping his fist toward the sky, clapping his hands and stomping his feet, he makes it easy to imagine that we could do what he's doing, too.
We couldn't, of course. Seger's songs, rooted in the rhythms of R&B, are cannily constructed little works of art, and his voice, though raspy and limited in range, is strong and soulful.
Ignoring visual pyrotechnics, the concert focused on the full sound of Seger's Silver Bullet Band, with three back-up singers, four horns, a swoon-inducing saxophonist and a pianist as well as guitarists and drummers.
Seger gave the audience, many of whom were old enough to remember him from the '70s, plenty of the oldies they came to hear, getting the party started early in the concert with Mainstreet and Old Time Rock & Roll' and later mellowing out with We've Got Tonight and Turn the Page.
Seger didn't need to implore the fans to sing along with him: They did so without being asked. If there's an irony in thousands of people singing together about being alone up on the stage, it's a gentle one, with genuine feeling behind it.
Though Seger has a well-loaded backlist to rest upon, he didn't. He integrated songs from his new album, Face the Promise, into the concert, and though his older fans weren't as familiar with them, they fit naturally with the rest of his work. The surging Wreck This Heart was one of the most electric passages of the evening, with a cover of Vince Gill's Real Mean Bottle a close second, while Simplicity brought a taste of funk to the mix.
When Seger returned after a short intermission, he was going as strong as ever. The concert offered a generous sampling of songs with strong bones performed by musicians capable of making them fresh without altering their character.
Some people would be thrilled not to work a second job.
For someone such as Mark Chatfield, a call from the boss at his second gig &emdash; playing lead guitar in the Silver Bullet Band &emdash; simply means tossing the keys of his Las Vegas guitar shop to one of the six employees, locking the house and hitting the road.
Chatfield, a 1974 graduate of Grove City High School who played in the popular Midwestern hard-rock band the Godz, has performed with the Bob Seger group since 1983.
In 1982, Silver Bullet Band member and former Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer invited Chatfield to attend an audition for Seger.
Brewer knew Chatfield from his stint as producer of the 1978 self-titled Godz album. (Chatfield had also joined the post-Grand Funk band Flint.)
At the audition, "I walked in wearing an Ohio State football jersey," said Chatfield, 50. "Bob thought that was pretty funny, him being from Ann Arbor. We hit it off."
Plenty of preparation also helped.
"Most of the guys who auditioned paid a lot more attention to the staple material &emdash; Against the Wind, Old Time Rock & Roll," Chatfield said. "I was the first guy to come in and audition. I'd taken it upon myself to learn the Distance album, which had just come out.
"When the guys in the band started fooling around with the songs, I knew them and I got the job."
Chatfield, lead guitarist for the latest tour, played rhythm guitar on the 1983 and '96 treks.
The differences between hanging out with the hardrocking and hard-living Godz and traveling with Seger are vast, to say the least.
By bus or motor home, the Godz played four or five consecutive nights during breakneck cross-country jaunts.
The pace, combined with what Chatfield called "having the times of our lives too many nights," caused their demise.
"The Godz went from being an opening band to being kind of a semi-headline band in '77 to '79, depending on who we were out with and where we were."
In 1977, the Godz, with Cheap Trick, opened shows for Kiss during the "Love Gun" tour.
"It was grueling, but we were young. We had lots of energy. You're 22, 23 years old and in a touring rock band, and you're on such an adrenaline &emdash; and everything-else &emdash; high that you don't notice any of the bad stuff going on."
During his initial outing with Seger, Chatfield quickly acclimated to the gentlemanly ways of the Motor City bandleader.
"The first tour I did with him, we flew commercial but we stayed in all four- or fivestar hotels," the guitarist said. "The '96 tour, we had a private plane and all great hotels.
"This tour, it's a private jet."
After all of his shows, Seger "comes right off the stage and right into a car, and &emdash; bam &emdash; he's out of there," Chatfield said.
Then, depending on the location, Seger either flies home or heads for a house he rents and uses as a hub until the tour gets closer to Michigan.
The rest of the musicians stay overnight in a hotel, then fly to the next gig.
"That's great, and it's bad," Chatfield said with a laugh. "If I would ever have the occasion to go out with another band and they wanted to put me on a bus again, I don't think I could ever do it. I'm too spoiled."
The Face the Promise tour, he said, ranks as the most enjoyable yet: Seger is playing his usual four-on-the-floor show but a little more loosely.
"I don't want to say he's mellower. Onstage, he's not at all. But his personality is.
"He's a lot more like one of the guys: He'll joke. He'll do little anecdotes onstage &emdash; which he's never done. He's just having a hell of a lot more fun, and it really shows in his personality and performances.
"I'm grateful that he's called me back."
As for the Godz, Chatfield still joins them when he gets that call, too.
He last performed with the group, which occasionally resurfaces with vocalist Eric Moore at the helm, in 2004 at a festival in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
"The band is still popular over there," Chatfield said. "We played with the Scorpions, Judas Priest, Alice Cooper. There's a song called Under the Table on the first album that gets airplay over there."
For no reason other than a busy schedule, he said, he hasn't talked to Moore since the trip to Amsterdam.
It was the sort of evening that normally would not have lent itself to much activity at Rupp Arena. After all, most bags at the University of Kentucky were already packed for spring break, while Lexington's basketball contingency -- the crowd that usually would occupy Rupp this time of year -- was either in Atlanta or in front of a TV for the Southeastern Conference tournament.
And yet here was Bob Seger, elder heartland rock 'n' roller, holding court again at the arena with 12,000 fans cheering on nearly 40 years worth of hits. The Detroit singer/songsmith knew the importance of basketball as well as anyone, given the hoops references he made during a hearty new slab of guitar funk called Simplicity. "Back home, we love our NBA like you love your Wildcats."
But that was as close to a sports event as the evening got. For his first Rupp performance in a decade, Seger, 61, strolled onstage wearing a black T-shirt, jeans, wire-rimmed glasses and a mane of hair that was almost proudly grey.
But to prove performance chops haven't rusted away during his absence, the singer and his 13-member Silver Bullet Band eased into Roll Me Away the way one might merge onto a crowded interstate. The initial pace was purposely studied and slightly cautious. But when the anthemic chorus capped off a tale of escape, destiny and, ultimately, solitude, the band locked into an assured and workmanlike groove that was indeed roadworthy.
Seger's stage presence last night bordered on liberation at times. While he wasn't afraid to resuscitate hits from 20 and 30 years ago, he was by no means attempting to relive old glories. Admittedly, some older tunes worked better than others. The rugged barrelhouse groove to 1976's Sunspot Baby, propelled by longtime Silver Bullet keyboardist Craig Frost, still sounded as solid as a stone fortress, while 1980's The Horizontal Bop was, in comparison, a more derivative boogie romp. But Seger had a ball with every song, and regularly flashed smiles big and broad enough to be seen back in Detroit.
That such a road warrior still revels so clearly and honestly in the art of pop performance was as comforting as hearing any of his vintage hits coming back to life.
The concert's muscular consistency -- specifically, the meshing of meat-and-potatoes rock 'n' roll with shades of vintage soul, R&B, and at times country -- also extended far beyond the career-defining singles that the Rupp crowd had obviously come to hear. In fact, many of the show's highlights came from the earliest songs in the Seger catalog as well as from the newest.
Early into the program's second set (which was separated from the first by one of the shortest rock concert intermissions on record: 8 minutes), Seger reached back for 1968's Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, a churchy hullabaloo that lit up every scratchy and joyous crease in his well-weathered voice.
Then the singer turned the time machine back further to cover the Chuck Berry staple C'est La Vie. It was a revealing trip through Seger's Motor City beginnings with a nod to the inspiration that clearly ignited his muse.
But the half-dozen or so songs from Seger's comeback album, 2005's Face the Promise, were even more industrious. Wreck This Heart and the record's title tune boasted the same the percussive guitar grind as the many Night Moves-era hits peppered throughout the show. Both, however, boasted a more symphonic sweep that took full advantage of the beefed-up Silver Bullet ranks which included Little Feat vocalist Shaun Murphy and longtime Seger sax man Alto Reed.
The country-directed entries from Face the Promise were a riot, too. Real Mean Bottle, a hard-knuckled honky tonk confessional was performed as a duet with drummer/vocalist Don Brewer who, like Frost, was a mainstay member of another Michigan rock institution: Grand Funk Railroad. The Answer's in the Question, which features Kentucky native Patty Loveless on Face the Promise, was performed with lighter country flair alongside Silver Bullet singer Laura Creamer.
Bob Seger and Rupp Arena
Looking back at old-time rock 'n' roller's old times at Rupp
There's something about the music of Bob Seger, as well as the abundant rock 'n' roll cheer that has long been an earmark of his stage shows, that affirms a sense of constancy.
At times, the titles alone of Seger's songs all but spell out the steadfast spirit behind his songs: Rock and Roll Never Forgets. Like a Rock. Still the Same.
And then there is Old Time Rock and Roll. While that's one of the few Seger hits the rocker didn't write (credits go instead to George Jackson and Thomas Jones), it remains emblematic of the way his best music has stubbornly shrugged off trends. That the single hit big for Seger in the aftermath of Saturday Night Fever and the most lurid extremes of disco only enforced how powerful and immovable Seger's rock sensibility was.
Of course, the big question today is how Seger can remain such a rock 'n' roll constant when he slips out of view for a decade at a time?
For a start, there is the radio genre now known as classic rock. About half of the songs on Seger's albums Night Moves and Stranger in Town have been making radio rounds pretty much non-stop since they were recorded in the late '70s. And how many times have you heard Like a Rock chugging in the background as TV screens beckon you to buy a new pickup?
All that helps. But mostly, Seger's music has long been mounted in the basics -- namely, a Detroit sound steeped in rock and soul tradition with lyrics that seldom flirt with topicality or controversy. While he has written his share of laments for lovers and losers, life has mostly existed as a means of celebration in Seger's music. How else could the protagonist of 1976's Sunspot Baby sound so soulful after being so miserably swindled?
But constancy comes into view again as Seger prepares for his first Lexington concert in 10 years on Thursday, a show that will rekindle a longstanding performance relationship with Rupp Arena. By our count, Thursday marks Seger's eighth visit there over a period spanning more than 30 years -- a time, in fact, that covers the venue's entire operational history.
So the time seemed right to dig through scrapbooks and archives and dust off personal accounts of three of Seger's concerts from three successive decades. Looking back at these notes revealed, in very vivid terms that shifts in age, commercial trends and even generational appeal have done little, if anything, to stifle a rock 'n' roll spirit that is "still the same."
Nov. 25, 1978
It's Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend and Seger is playing Rupp for the third time in 16 months -- a feat indeed, considering the arena has barely been open two years.
The performance comes at a time when his commercial popularity is, arguably, at its apex. Stranger in Town has been a top-selling album since the summer while We've Got Tonite is a new single that receives only polite response from a crowd that wants Seger's hearty Detroit rock 'n' roll served straight. To that end, he does not disappoint.
Curiously, cover tunes bookend the program. Frankie Miller's Ain't Got No Money opens while a white-hot version of Chuck Berry's Let It Rock is served as a second encore. Over half of Night Moves and all but one tune from Stranger in Town make up the bulk of the set list. Seger is having a ball. Only Silver Bullet Band guitarist Drew Abbott can match his energy.
Sept. 17, 1986
Already, talk is circulating that Seger is in the midst of his final tour. Like a Rock is the hit album (and single) of the day and 18,000 fans are crammed into Rupp on a Wednesday for his Lexington return.
A blues-soaked set by the Fabulous Thunderbirds opens the evening. Perhaps Seger senses some friendly competition from the band. He chooses his set's third tune, 1983's Makin' Thunderbirds, to let his Silver Bullets fly. The only sign of the times comes in the synthesized funk of Tight Rope and The Aftermath, while the singer's mounting country contingency is addressed with his hit cover of Rodney Crowell's Shame on the Moon.
Abbott is gone, but in his place is guitarist Rick Vito (who, one year later, would temporarily replace Lindsey Buckingham in Fleetwood Mac). Vito's slide solo on Like a Rock, which was still years away from becoming a soundtrack for truck commercials, all but steals the show.
May 31, 1996
After nearly a decade's absence, Seger returns to Rupp with a new album that, surprise of surprises, is not a platinum-selling hit. Five songs from It's a Mystery still pepper the setlist. But by this point, radio is shunning newer music by veteran artists while heartily championing their back catalogs. An audience of 14,000 responds in kind.
The new Revisionism Street reveals a grim R&B groove. But the crowd has clearly come for the hits. And so, Old Time Rock and Roll and Sunspot Baby bring the mid-70s back to life. So does an 11-member Silver Bullet Band that includes Little Feat's Shaun Murphy and Bill Payne, former John Mellencamp drummer Kenny Aronoff, and yet another guitar ace named Tim Mitchell.
A little of the higher register bark is missing from Seger's voice. But the boundless love of stage performance that has come to define his performances over the decades positively glows.
March 8, 2007?
That brings us to the present. When Seger took the stage at Louisville's Freedom Hall in December with a Silver Bullet Band that is now 13 members strong, a sold-out crowd saw a rock veteran perfectly at ease with his age. His hair had grayed. He wore glasses. His stage costume consisted of jeans, a baggy black T-shirt and, as the evening progressed, a headband.
Oh, yes. That brings to mind another constant. The smile. You quickly lost count how many times Seger, at age 61, beamed in obvious rock 'n' roll delight. He has been off the road and happily at home with his family. Now, with a solid new album called Face the Promise, he was simply picking up where he left off -- with tunes of fun, soul and familiarity that defined a rock 'n' spirit he has embodied nearly all his life.
"I guarantee I'll be around if you'll wait for me," Bob Seger sings in a new tune, "Wait for Me."
By now, fans of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer are used to waiting. Fans have waited 11 years for Seger to unveil his new studio album, "Face the Promise." And they've waited just as long for the Detroit rocker to return to the concert stage.
For local fans, the wait has seemed like an eternity. It was 1978 when Seger last played Omaha. But the wait ends Tuesday, when Seger and his Silver Bullet Band come to the Qwest Center Omaha. Though the vast majority of tickets were snapped up months ago, a limited number remain.
His hits, which span four decades, range from midtempo ballads such as "Turn the Page," "Against the Wind" and "Night Moves" to more muscular rock songs such as "Hollywood Nights" and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets."
Seger, 61, kicked off his concert tour - which has been selling out across the country - in early November in Grand Rapids, Mich. He'll wind things down March 17 in front of a hometown crowd in Detroit.
On his last tour in 1996, he played 64 shows that grossed $26.3 million and drew 923,829, according to Billboard Boxscore.
Playing dad - not rock star - kept him from the road in the decade that followed. Seger flies home after every concert to be with his wife and kids.
"Most of the time, I'm here in Michigan and I'm taking out the garbage every Monday," he told CBS News recently. "I get up and move a couple of cans out to the edge of the road like everybody else."
His down-home attitude, rough-edged voice and songs rooted in the people and places of the heartland have catapulted him to rock-legend status. He boasts a fan base that ranges from bankers to bikers.
His "Face the Promise" tour, which features a mixture of new songs and numerous classics, has been drawing rave reviews.
In a review of Seger's Feb. 24 concert in Oakland, Calif., the Oakland Tribune wrote: "It would be difficult to find a crowd that was more into an entire show, from the opening number to the final encore, than what was witnessed in Oakland. It would also be hard to find a more enthusiastic performer than what we saw in Seger."
Reviews of Seger's 'Face the Promise' show
When the crowd sings all of "Turn the Page," word for word, loudly enough to almost drown Seger out, there's obviously a lot more than a concert going on.
- The Detroit News, Dec. 21, 2006
Seger walked out and waved. He wore blue jeans and a black T-shirt, and with the sturdy support of a reconstituted Silver Bullet Band - several longtime members now sport flowing locks the color of their namesake ammo - played heartland rockers and back-to-basics ballads for more than two hours.
- The Boston Globe, Jan. 29, 2007
The recent years that Seger chose to spend with his children after a long career as one of America's most iconic rockers apparently helped preserve that distinctive, nicotine-flavored voice and left him with a whole lot of energy and enthusiasm to spare.
- The Denver Post, Feb. 15, 2007
Fast facts about Bob Seger
Born May 6, 1945, in Detroit, Seger lived in the suburb of Dearborn, Mich., until he was 6, when his family moved to Ann Arbor, Mich.
He started his musical career in 1961 in Detroit as a member of the Decibels and there he met his future manager and record producer, Punch Andrews.
His song "Night Moves" was named by Rolling Stone as Best Single of the Year for 1977. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named it one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
His album "Against the Wind" won a Grammy Award in 1980 for best rock performance by a duo or group.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2004. Fellow Detroit musician Kid Rock gave the induction speech, and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm proclaimed it Bob Seger Day in his honor.
After every show, Seger flies home on a chartered plane. He is married and has two children, ages 14 and 11.
Seger in pop culture
His 1986 song "Like a Rock" was used in Chevy truck commercials for more than 10 years.
He recorded a special version of "Night Moves" (replacing guitar with piano) for the 1981 film "American Pop."
His 1982 hit "Roll Me Away" is featured on the "Armageddon" soundtrack.
In his classic song "Turn the Page," Bob Seger sings about "a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha."
Shaun Murphy is no stranger to highways, east of Omaha or otherwise.
An Omaha native, Murphy has logged hundreds of thousands of miles singing, recording and touring with rockers like Joe Walsh, Bruce Hornsby, Eric Clapton, the Moody Blues, Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent.
Since 1973, she's worked with one of rock's biggest names -- Bob Seger.
Murphy, born Sheryl Murphy, is one of three backup singers on Seger's "Face the Promise" tour. She returns to her hometown Tuesday, when the tour stops at the Qwest Center Omaha.
Murphy, who also is a member of the band Little Feat, lived in Omaha until she was 10. She and her family then moved to Iowa and later Detroit. Over the years, she's also lived in Florida and California. She now calls Nashville home.
We caught up with the 58-year-old for a quick chat.
Q.How do you feel about coming back to Omaha?
A.I love it. I play there with my other band, Little Feat. We play there now and again. It's great to see all the old places. I think we even once played in Peony Park, which I used to go to all the time when I was little.
Q.How is the Seger tour going?
A.It's going just terrific. I couldn't be happier for Bob. Obviously, he's waited a long time to come back out. You know, nobody thought that the tour was going to happen, so this is just tremendous for him and everybody. The reaction's been just great. Bob's been in great spirits the whole tour.
Q.How did you start working with Bob?
A.When I was living in Detroit, I had some bands there. Bob's manager, Punch Andrews, not only managed Bob, but he had a couple of clubs in town where he used to book my band now and again. We got to be really good friends. When I did a little short stint with Motown Records, they moved me out to California. And then I sat there. They didn't do anything with me. So I called up Punch and I said, "Look, I want to work. Do you know anybody in town that's looking for a singer?" He said, "Well, we're actually looking for a background singer." I said, "Well, I've never done that but that doesn't sound too hard." So he hired me, and I drove back to Michigan and started working with Bob in '73.
Q.What kind of show does Bob have planned for us?
A.He has been doing a lot of the new material, which has been going over great. Of course, every time he hits those opening bars for the classics, everybody goes crazy. There hasn't been a lot of changing in the set - one or two tweaks here and there, that's about it.
Q.You're one of three backup singers on the tour. What's it take to do your job?
A.You have to be real versatile. I've got a very strong voice. I've got a pretty large range. And I can have a nice strong clear voice or I can have a gruff voice. Pretty much anything he needs to do, we can accomplish.
Q.What's a typical day like for you?
A.It's not real exciting. We get into town and hopefully we find a great place to eat. That's about it for our day off. By the time we get here it's dinnertime, and then everybody wants to go to bed. The next day you get up and prepare to go to the gig. We have a pretty lengthy sound check, and then we wait around until the gig. We go to the after-show party and meet friends, and come back and go to sleep. It's pretty routine, unfortunately. No big rock 'n' roll kind of craziness anymore. Everybody's pretty well through with that.
Q.Do you have a favorite Seger song?
A.I have always been a fan of Bob's from the get-go. I don't think I could nail it down to one or two. He's such a great tunesmith. In this climate, with people just dropping off the charts like flies, to have him have the longevity that he's had has just been great to see.
Q.What do you enjoy most about being a professional musician?
A.I love hearing other musicians and singers, and I love to travel. It's almost, at this point, like being a sailor. You get used to traveling. You're home for a week or two and you want to get back out again.
Q.The Seger tour comes to an end soon. What are your plans then?
A.We're starting up the Little Feat tour right as this one ends. I have enough time to go home and wash my clothes and go back out again. Little Feat is getting ready to put out a new studio record. It's a collaboration with Jimmy Buffett. It's in the process of being mixed. Hopefully it'll be out by late spring or early summer. It's good to have a full plate.
Q.What else should we know about the Seger concert?
In his classic hit, "Night Moves," Bob Seger sings: "We were just young and restless and bored."
That was hardly the scene at his sold-out concert Tuesday night at the Qwest Center Omaha. The bulk of the audience was far from young, and there was nary a restless or bored fan in the crowd of 15,500.
The 61-year-old veteran rocker and his Silver Bullet Band barreled through a crowd-pleasing performance that had the audience on its feet, singing and dancing along. The two-hour-plus show felt more like a party than a concert.
With only five shows left until his massive U.S. tour comes to an end, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was in great spirits and in great voice as he dusted off a string of classic hits and unveiled a half-dozen new songs from his first new album in 11 years, "Face the Promise."
Seger arrived onstage to Thin Lizzy's rock anthem "The Boys Are Back in Town," clad in a black T-shirt, jeans and a headband. He addressed the crowd with a hearty, "Nice to see you!" then kicked off the night with his 1982 single, "Roll Me Away."
Accompanied by his six-piece Silver Bullet Band, four-man Motor City Horns and three female backup singers, including Omaha native Shaun Murphy, Seger followed with the old Memphis tune "Trying to Live My Life Without You."
With simple lighting, an unadorned stage, and no distracting special effects, Seger let his timeless songs take the lead.
For most of the show, Seger sang and crisscrossed the stage with his microphone in one hand while pumping his other fist high in the air.
The crowd responded with equal energy and enthusiasm, clapping and cheering wildly after every song.
The crowd went crazy when, 11 songs into the set, Seger sat behind the piano for "Turn the Page."
Fans roared as musician Alto Reed launched into the road song with his smoky, soulful saxophone.
As expected, fans filled the arena with deafening cheers after Seger sang the tune's first verse: "On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha."
Seger closed out the first set with a terrific version of "Beautiful Loser," then told the crowd he would be back after an eight-minute intermission. (I timed it, and yes, it was exactly eight minutes.)
Though he stuck to vocals most of the night, Seger played acoustic guitar during "Mainstreet" and "Night Moves," which arrived during the encore. He sat behind a piano during a gentle rendition of "We've Got Tonight."
The Omaha Crowd was outstanding tonight, and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band rewarded the crowd with a really high energy show. It's been a long time since they have played here (1978?) and the crowd was ready. Unlike the traditionally late arriving Los Angeles crowds, about 80% of the seats were filled by the time Steve Azar reached the stage; his set received a standing ovation at the end!
I was on the main floor, and the crowd was on its feet from start to finish tonight. Of course, everyone in the crowd was waiting for "Turn the Page--On that long lonesome highway, east of Omaha" and the fans cheered loudly! Shaun Murphy was also welcomed back to her home town by the crowd during her introduction.
He's still runnin' against the wind, even if his gait has stiffened a bit and his knees don't quite bend like they used to.
One look at Bob Seger these days -- gray hair, goofy glasses, thick shoulders, thicker waist, the sweaty headband, the callused mitts of a guy who works with his hands for a living -- and he becomes inseparable from the blue-collar ham-and-eggers who populate so many of his tunes.
Rock 'n' roll is populated by everymen -- it's what we like about Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and John Mellencamp -- but nobody fills this role quite like Seger, a guy who waxes romantic about neon beer signs, considers rock 'n' roll a sacrament and pines for the open road like a lover whose embrace he can't wait to return to.
Seger's voice is ragged, gruff and tuneful all at once, a bundle of imperfections that, like a mutt howlin' at the moon, works on a primal level: He sings from the gut, and that's where his tunes hit you.
All things considered, Seger seems less like a rock star than the guy occupying the stool next to you at the local bar, downing shots and railing against Ford's latest round of layoffs.
This is Bob Seger's appeal.
And this is why, close to seven years since he toured last, Seger still can pack arenas with throngs of fans, many of whom look a lot like he does.
"Most of his songs seemed to be about me," says Rick Stewart, a repo man from Ringo, Ga., and longtime Bob Seger fan who's been following his career since 1976. "Whatever I was going through, he had a song that related to my feelings and made me feel better about myself."
"His music is timeless and classic, not trendy," says Erin VanWay, 22, a Seger fan who recently saw him in concert in her native Texas. "He made me cry, scream, laugh."
Seger's return to the road has long seemed like an inevitability. He took some time off to raise his kids, but Seger's vast back catalog is so full of love letters to the highway, it's as if motor oil courses through his veins.
Seger's latest disc, "Face the Promise," his first album of new material in 11 years, continues to barrel down those same byways.
"I need a world of changes / I need a brand new space / I need an El Dorado / That needs to be some place," he sings on the album-opening "Wreck This Heart," his voice growling like a revved engine.
The allure of Seger's wanderlust is a simple one: If there's anything implied in the open road it's possibility, and the characters who inhabit his songs are frequently looking for something better -- a better life, a better woman -- in that vast horizon that they're always chasing down.
On "Promise," however, Seger seems to be seeing a different man's reflection staring back at him in his rearview mirror. He's long documented how alienating and lonely the road can be -- Seger's aching hit "Turn the Page" is still one of best tunes about living the nomadic life of a rock star -- but on his latest disc, the comforts of home seem to be appealing to him more and more.
"I will answer the wind / I will leave with the tide / I'll be out on the road / Every chance I can ride," he sings on the flickering ballad "Wait for Me," before telling the object of his affection that he's ready to get back in her arms. "No matter how far / No matter how free / I'll be along / If you'll wait for me."
Seger may as well be speaking to his fans, who've made this long journey with him.
"He's so sincere up there on the stage," says Beth Swayze, 41, an account executive from Kent, Wash., who recently saw Seger perform. "I went to a couple of his concerts with my mom growing up, and then this last week took my 19- and 22-year-old kids. This was like a dream come true to be there with my mom and kids. It's funny, here, Bob Seger said that he wanted to tour so his kids could see him. I got to do the same thing."
Seger's hinted that, at 61, this may be his last stretch of prolonged touring.
If so, he's earned the respite.
Mark Chatfield has traded his day job as owner of Cowtown Guitars in Las Vegas for some night moves with Bob Seger.
Chatfield has moved into the lead guitar spot with Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, who perform Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden.
"Guess paying my dues and practicing paid off," Chatfield said in an e-mail.
He's been touring with Seger since 1983. Chatfield was the rhythm guitarist with Seger and the Silver Bullet Band on previous tours, in 1983 and 1996.
A 1982 audition with Seger opened the door for Chatfield, at the suggestion of Don Brewer and Craig Frost. Frost had joined the Silver Bullet Band in 1980 and Brewer in 1982.
He was but three songs into a long, loose-fitting set when Bob Seger strapped on a ratty black headband -- the guy was perspiring already, his skin glistening like it had reached its dew point.
The sweat was all in the service of some sizzling rock 'n' roll, bashed out as if R&B were short for rhythm and bombast.
At the MGM Grand on Saturday night, Seger and his diesel-powered pelvis begged the obvious question: What is rock 'n' roll if not a series of arch gestures -- the clenched fist punching the air to the beat; the locomotive, nonstop hips; the guitar held high, like some hard-earned trophy?
Seger embodies all these conceits and makes them his own; he's an exultant 61-year-old who still plays as if his beard were on fire.
Visceral and hot-blooded, his shows work on a cardiovascular level, not a cognitive one, with Seger boxing the air and gesticulating like a cop directing traffic.
This isn't to suggest that Seger has nothing to say -- far from it.
His tunes are often eloquent and touching reflections on the promise of young love and the emptiness of midlife ennui.
But watching Seger duck- walk across the stage like Chuck Berry's pasty, slightly paunchy spiritual heir, you get the impression that all the poignancy in the world wouldn't mean that much to this veteran rocker if you couldn't shake your derriere to it.
"The question is, are you feelin' funky tonight?" Seger said early in the show, right before launching into a heated "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You."
He didn't wait for a response. He didn't need to.
One gal was shakin' her hair so hard, she had to remove her glasses lest they go flying off. A row behind her, a refrigerator-size dude in a Seger T-shirt bellowed along to "Katmandu" with his hand over his heart, as if he were reciting the "Pledge of Allegiance."
And, in a way, perhaps he was. Seger inspires this kind of devotion because he seems so devoted himself.
Backed by a 13-piece band, Seger howled through his many hits with that gutbucket voice of his that doesn't sound like it's aged a day past 1976, often singing from the back of his heels.
Live, Seger and Co. tease even more sharp-edged funk out of standards like "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight" and "Sunspot Baby," resulting in extended jams with some combustible saxophone playing that nearly sucks all the air out of the room.
And during an especially raucous "Travelin' Man," you could feel the floor rattling beneath your feet as the crowd stomped along.
Seger played almost half of his latest album, "Face the Promise," a vintage-sounding disc that doesn't attempt to update his soul-fired rock 'n' roll and is the better for it.
After all, Seger's full-bodied swing is like denim and leather: It'll never go out of style, no matter how the times may change.
And that's where a large part of his appeal lies, especially with the older members of the crowd.
Seger soundtracked a generation's worth of proms, and to hear him sing today, it's as if no time has lapsed since.
This is a comforting notion, no doubt, for anyone who has gone gray like Seger has.
He has grown up without getting old -- a nifty feat -- and that's earned him arena after arena full of true believers.
"Faith, it's hard to find," Seger sang midway through the show, sitting down at the piano for a rare breather.
Another great performance, only issue, and had nothing to do with Bob or the band, was the sound techs had problems, and evry now and then Bobs voice was cut off, or the music sounded fuzzy, but the performance was just as spectacular as in L.A.
The crowds were more energetic in Vegas then L.A. and very rarely sat down, and ther were a few changes from 2 nights ago, (no Kid Rock) but Don Brewer sang Kids parts, and you would not have known unless Bob didn't say that Don was singing, it was GREAT!
Only other problem was that security was strict, if someone started to dance in an aisle, they got stopped, so it was a little over the top. But enjoy it, WE DID! It was my wifes first time seeing Bob Seger, and she was amazed by his youth energy, and blown away by Alto Reed and his stage performance, he rocked and rolled the crowd from end to end!
My buddy from the Air Force came also, and he said it was a great send off for him, as he is being shipped to Iraq in 3 weeks, and it was also his 1st time seeing Bob Seger.
Other noticible difference, the fans that came from far, and farther, Alaska, Atlanta, GA. Chicago, Portland,
MICHIGAN, and numerous other states that I talked to, but Bob gave a special nod to the family from Alaska, so they must have been floating on cloud last night.
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) -- Bob Seger never was a "rock" star. He's a rock 'n' roller -- and his show Thursday at the creaky Forum was a pointed reminder of how rock 'n' roll used to make us feel. And still can.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and his Silver Bullet Band rollicked through a joyful show that thrilled the graying, near-sellout crowd for most of the two-plus hours. The years have sapped much of the soul from his voice, but Seger gamely delivered all he had, which was plenty. And more importantly, the songs have held up -- from hit singles to underappreciated album cuts.
During the 1970s and early '80s, Seger was something of a maverick, celebrating rock 'n' roll in the age of rock -- be it corporate, progressive or Fleetwood Mac. And his first local concert in 11 years continued that wave, with song after punchy song extracting the passion of youth and a musical style that moved a generation, or two. And while many of his songs were nostalgic when he wrote them decades ago, they have an entirely different nostalgic effect today.
With two weeks to go in his five-month tour, Seger's voice was a shell of his heyday. Indeed, he occasionally was drowned out by his three backup singers and rarely even attempted any tough notes. Instead, he let his deep, durable catalog carry the show. And with a bare-bones stage, simple lighting and nary a video screen, there was nothing to distract from the singer and his songs.
The pairing of "Fire Down Below" and "The Horizontal Bop" dug into rock 'n' roll's carnal roots, as fundamental as it gets. "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight" was the night's peppiest song, and it was followed by the still-lovely ballad "We've Got Tonite." As jarring as that tempo downshift was, it absolutely worked, with Seger playing gentle piano. Played during the encore, "Night Moves" lost some of its raging-hormones bite, yet it resonated like that song Seger was humming from 1962 while waxing nostalgic in 1976.
The evening featured a half-dozen tracks from "Face the Promise" (Capitol), Seger's first new album since 1995. Most were solid if not wholly memorable, with the standouts being the title track and "Real Mean Bottle," a rollicking honky-tonk tale that featured the guest singer it was recorded with -- "Mr. Kid Rock," as Seger called him.
Humbly clad in a black T and jeans, Seger summoned his biggest vocal effort for the road lament "Turn the Page," especially during the verse about leaving it on the stage night after night ("Every ounce of energy, you try and give away").
Back after 11 years, the Detroit rocker delivered an expert tutorial in rock fundamentals with his highly entertaining return to the Forum.
To some people -- ardent fans, primarily -- it's surely a shame that Bob Seger hasn't come around more often lately.
It had been 11 years since one of Detroit's earliest and greatest rock stars had put out an album when "Face the Promise" arrived in September -- and it's been nearly 11 years since he has played the Forum, as he did Thursday night.
In that same time, most of Seger's peers -- Springsteen, Mellencamp, the Who, Elton, Rod, even once-reclusive John Fogerty -- have offered at least 11 SoCal performances each. Enough cash-showered visits, in other words, to grow overly familiar with their live routines; in every case except the Boss's their ability to surprise has vanished.
Which is why it's actually to Seger's advantage that he has spent the past decade in semiretirement with family, watching his stature rise while a new breed of Detroit rocker (from Kid Rock to the White Stripes) has tipped his hat to him.
Granted, despite solid new studio work, there was reason to wonder if Seger still had that certain spark in concert, given his rather raspy and strained appearance when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Such concerns, however, were trumped immediately Thursday, as the once gangly, now big and broad wall of a guy unleashed his unmistakable holler on "Roll Me Away."
The roar of recognition that rose from the crowd -- even for that relative obscurity from the early '80s -- indicated absence had made these hearts grow deeply fonder. It was a remarkable outpouring that became even more thunderous as the night wore on and Seger and this unerring incarnation of the Silver Bullet Band dusted off one classic after another.
"Too many new songs," the scribe to my left grunted during intermission. I disagree completely. Of 24 selections, only a fourth were from "Face the Promise," and of those, one ("Simplicity") was merely a means to get people back in their seats after the break; two others ("Wreck This Heart" and the grimy title track, both reminiscent of primo Don Henley) held their own against his staples; and the playfully ornery "Real Mean Bottle," which closed the first set, was enlivened by a guest appearance from Kid Rock, Seger's duet partner on record.
Better yet, the new songs not only didn't distract from the oldies, they seemed improved by their company. The "Roll With It" feel of "Face the Promise," for instance, tumbled almost seamlessly into the strut of "Sunspot Baby" and the giddy fun of "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight," proving that Seger remains a master of fundamentals in any era.
True, there's little variation between "Old Time Rock and Roll" and "Katmandu" and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" or even his first record from 1968, "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." All of them, however, are played with precision by the sprawling Silver Bullet Band, which still includes a few longtime members (bassist Chris Campbell, saxman Alto Reed, pianist Craig Frost) as well as Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer and current Little Feat vocalist Shaun Murphy. A rarity in rock anymore, it's also one of the few bands in the idiom that merits the description "powerhouse."
Naturally, Rock 101 is their ambition. For as many elegiac gems as there are in Seger's catalog, he is foremost an everyman purist, an extraordinary ordinary guy keeping the basics alive in a black T-shirt and jeans and headband holding back his gray hair. He'd just as soon revive Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" (done in a swinging style this night) than make sure to include more of his own copyrights. (Sadly missing here: "Still the Same," "Shame on the Moon" and "You'll Accomp'ny Me." Gratefully absent: "Like a Rock.")
That said, what held me rapt were indelible tunes. Not so much "Night Moves," unfortunately -- it felt a tad stodgy, though it wasn't nearly as altered as "Old Time Rock and Roll," the key dropped to avoid sky-high notes Seger can't reach (regular high ones he still nails). But "Turn the Page" is still a gripping piece of tough-luck melancholy, as is "Beautiful Loser"; "Hollywood Nights" is as exhilarating as anything the '70s produced; and I had forgotten just how beautiful "We've Got Tonight" can be.
Detroit rocker performs crowd-pleasing greatest hits along with newer material at the Forum.
You likely wouldn't think of Bob Seger as a visionary. But he's played that role at a couple of points in his 40-year career.
He was hammering out early-model iron-clad heartland rock from his Michigan base back in the late '60s, when Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Tom Petty were still skipping school and ticking off their dads.
And while today even the hippest musicians are eager for the exposure and cash flow generated by putting a song in a TV commercial, back in 1990, when he let Chevrolet use "Like a Rock" to sell trucks, it was anything but cool. Seger made it cool on his own terms by pretty much giving the song to Chevy as a way to help his hometown's beleaguered auto industry.
At the Forum on Thursday, Seger, 61 and sporting silver hair and spectacles, represented another notion that could benefit many artists: Go away for a while.
Seger did. He sat out the last decade, concentrating on family life, working up a handful of songs he could feel good about releasing, letting his old fans miss him, letting some new fans discover him -- a more commendable course than the standard of cranking out a new album every few years with somewhere between adequate and negligible sales and going out on the road regularly to play for folks who only want to hear the old songs anyway.
The latter probably remains true in any case, and Seger didn't disappoint anyone Thursday on this stop of his first tour since 1996. His set was heavy on the oldies, reaching back as far as 1968's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" and concentrating largely on '70s staples, including churning rockers "Fire Down Below" and "Hollywood Nights," evocatively wistful ballads "Night Moves" and the still-superb "Beautiful Loser" and popular backward-looking novelties "Horizontal Bop" and, of course, "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll."
It's not so much that these songs seemed refreshed, but rather they were trustworthy, reliable, enduring, all the things Seger has long represented -- "Like a Rock" and such (though last year he swore off Chevy due to environmental concerns and didn't play that song Thursday). That was underscored by the current 14-member edition of his Silver Bullet Band, featuring bassist Chris Campbell and sax player Alto Reed (who have been with Seger since 1969 and 1971, respectively) as well as keyboard player Craig Frost (since 1980) and drummer Don Brewer (of Grand Funk Railroad and part of the same Detroit rock generation as Seger). And the leader himself, though not exactly athletic, has kept his voice in prime, gruff shape.
The six new songs he played, from last year's "Face the Promise" album, stood up well in the company of the old favorites. The title song rocked as hard as anything else this night, "No More" drew a reflective line in the sand, and 90-proof country-rocker "Real Mean Bottle" let him pay honor to the song's writer (Vince Gill), its inspiration (Merle Haggard) and Seger acolyte Kid Rock, who walked onto the Forum stage to reprise the duet role from the album.
When veteran rocker Bob Seger (tickets | music) busted into "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" as the final song of his nearly two-hour set Thursday night (3/1) in Los Angeles, it was a fitting finale to a long-awaited night his die-hard fans won't soon forget.
It's a good thing the memories will be positive, as judging from Seger's track record, it might be a while before he tours again.
In the midst of his first North American tour in more than a decade, the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee put his 40-year career on display in front of a near-capacity crowd at The Forum in Inglewood, CA. The 24-song set spanned his catalog, from the title track of his 1968 debut, "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," to six cuts from his latest release, last year's "Face the Promise."
The new album debuted an impressive No. 4 on The Billboard 200 album chart and quickly achieved platinum status, marking the 11th platinum effort of Seger's heralded career. To his credit, the new material doesn't stray far from his comfort zone, and the tracks made comfortable additions to a hit-laden performance.
Opener "Roll Me Away" immediately shifted the night into gear, the heartland's favorite rocker aiming his set for the open road and never looking back. It was the early, back-to-back billing of "Main Street" and "Old Time Rock & Roll" that got the equally veteran crowd off their feet in a big way, though, Silver Bullet Band saxophonist Alto Reed kicking off the first, and piano man Craig Frost hitting the intro notes that put Tom Cruise on the map in "Risky Business."
Seger, for his part, sounded strong, his voice warm, weathered and raspy, and showing nary a sign of wear (possibly due, in part, to its limited use over the past 10 years). Dressed down in blue jeans and a black T-shirt, and accessorized by a black headband, the frontman was as stripped-down as his stage show, which offered little more than robotic light-trusses that wouldn't have been considered high-tech even the last time he toured.
The presentation was so bare bones, even the upper-most riser, behind the modest drum kit, didn't get used until Reed climbed atop to play his sax during the night's closer. But bells and whistles weren't necessary.
Backed by his six-piece Silver Bullet Band, the four-piece Motor City Horns and three female backing vocalists (Laura Creamer shared the spotlight on the duet "The Answer's in the Question," recorded on the new album with Patty Loveless), Seger sat behind the piano for "We've Got Tonight" and "Turn the Page," donned an acoustic guitar on "Night Moves" and "Against the Wind," and even fired up the electric six-string, serving up his latest title track with an adrenaline rush that defied his years.
When he wasn't behind an instrument, he worked the stage with an assertive savvy that drove the crowd to return the same, his fists pumping, theirs pumping back, his legs braced to the floor and fists clenched in delivery, and the crowd dancing in appreciation, even if not always in rhythm.
Even the tabloid headline-stealing Kid Rock couldn't rob Seger of his roaring thunder. The fellow Detroit native joined the elder statesman for a run through "Real Mean Bottle," "an ode to Merle Haggard, Cali-style." It was a one-off highlight for the Hollywood crowd that would have normally been reserved for one of the pair's hometown throwdowns.
It was working-class rock, as delivered by the working man's rock-and-roll messiah.
If the night were any more blue collar, Dickies would have been required dress, and Union cards would have discounted the $22 parking. But there was magic in the blue-collar missives delivered on this night. While classic ballads may have rekindled broken hearts, and broken hips from excessive dancing might have worried some in the crowd, the man they came to see ultimately proved exceptional.
Bob Seger is more than just an acclaimed rock-and-roll legend, he's part of the American fabric. In Los Angeles, that fabric, however simple and understated, felt as comfortable as ever.
My name is Brady keegan, I'm 10 years old, and went to the LA concert with my dad, we won tickets for 2nd row but a guy let us move up to 1st row, the opening band Steve Azar was really good, and towards the end, he threw me a guitar pick.
When Bob Seger came on,I was really excited, and was cool that Bob Seger seen me, I was in front of Chris Campbell most of the night, and got to see Alto Reed, and Jim Moose Brown, and got a guitar pick from him.
When Kid Rock came on, they sang Real Mean Bottle, and it was really good. The crowd was loving it.
All the songs were great, it was the best day of my life, and wish it could last forever, I will always remember it.
I wore my Bob Seger shirt to school the next day, showed my teacher, and friends, and had to explain to my friends who Bob Seger was.
Oh. My. God.
It's like it was 1996 all over again. I had expected Seger to have lost a step or a note since the last time I saw him, but no. He was just as sharp, just as fun, and even more talkative tonight than he was then. 25 songs he played, every one of them a stellar arrangement. Yes, he compensated for the deepening of his voice, but in a way, it sounded that much more Seger because of it. Lord knows I experienced a deepening of MY voice tonight. In fact, I've all but lost it.
What a ride! I brought my 10 year old son we had 2nd row seats, but got booted to front row, almost center by a guy who thought it was so cool my son was there!
Everyone seems to forget about Steve Azor, he was great, he through a pick to my son, and just showed a zest up on the stage.
But when Bob Seger and the boys came on, with Roll Me Away, we were rolled away with it! My son very seldom sat down for the rest of the night, everyone of the band aknowledged him at one point or another, just to show what a great bunch they are! And the music, it is still ringing great in my ears, and what a beautiful ring it is! They rocked the house and people loved them! They say he never lost a step, that's because they floated with ease of it all! Anyone who says different, must have been at the wrong concert!
At the end, my son had 2 guitar picks, the Steve Azor, and Jim Moose Brown, and as we were getting ready to walk out from our seats, a very great fan came up to him and gave him a pick from Mark,
Was at the amazing LA show last night and I have to say WE WERE THERE TO SEE THE REAL THING...
Bob and his band were amazing, lucky me I ran into a friend from High School and she had won tickets
through local Radio Station KLOS (front row) well since the 2 seats nearby were empty ... you guessed
it, I sat in front row all night.... Bob sounded the same as he did when I saw him at the Pauly Pavillion in LA.
He had the cutest expressions on his face and he really looked like he was having a great time. The band
was entertaining and made sure they ventured over to the other sides of the stage so everyone could get a closer glimpse. Cannot wait til his next Greatest Hits album comes out.
Same set list as Phoenix with a twist - Kid Rock was in the house, so they did Real Mean Bottle after Beautiful Loser and before intermission. Kid came out and did the song with the band. That made the 2nd set shorter - no replacement song.
Bob Seger and the band were excellent. It looks like they have really turned the show up a notch tonight from the first show I saw in Chicago; however, the LA crowd is no where near as responsive as a Midwestern crowd. I sat in the 11th row in front of Alto Reed. By the third song, rows 4-9 were seated and the entire center section was seated. That is one of my biggest problems with LA crowds--too many of the best seats are wasted on people in the industry. The band got everyone on their feet again with OTR&R, and Sunspot Baby-Real Mean Bottle (minus a brief pause for We've Got Tonight). In the second act, the crowd was seated for Simplicity and the Answer's in the Question (that was the only song the crowd sat during the Chicago show I attended).
Bob Seger talks Harleys, kids and touring at age 61
It has been 10 years since classic-rock favorite Bob Seger took his Silver Bullet Band on the road, and that tour skipped Phoenix.
During that time, he enjoyed the fruits of his labors from his '70s and '80s heyday (50 million albums sold) by kicking back and watching his two children grow up at home in his native Michigan.
With a nudge from his daughter and son, now 11 and 13, Seger has ended his hiatus to record a new CD, Face the Promise, and return to the road.
The CD, full of straight-ahead rock and a few surprises, is approaching sales of 1 million. And the tour has been filling arenas such as US Airways Center, where Seger performs Tuesday.
Seger, 61, called from a recent tour stop to talk about how this latest phase of his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career is going.
Question: You're straddling a motorcycle on a country road on the new album cover. What type of bike is it, and how long have you ridden?
Answer: It's a Harley Dyna Wide Glide on a 24-year-old chassis with 2003 (modifications). I've had a motorcycle license since 1967, but I didn't do it for a long time and got back into it around 2001. I got a Harley and really fell in love with it.
Q: What appeals most to you about riding?
A: It's when I turn the music off. It's kind of spiritual. Some people say it's the closest thing to flying when you ride a cycle without a windshield. I like to go to very remote places, go about 50 or 60 miles an hour and take everything in.
Q: It sounds like your kids helped persuade you to get back out on the concert trail.
A: They didn't remember the last tour; they were 1 and 3. They'd been hearing it all these years - what Dad did, Dad is on the radio, but they really wanted to see it.
Q: You released a few new songs in 2003 and played at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony a year later, but it sounds as if family was the focus during your hiatus.
A: I kept writing, playing and singing because I enjoy it. But it was really more about them (children) than me. I wanted to be there. I'm so glad I didn't have them when I was 27 - I had them when I was 47 - or I would never have seen them.
Q: You've mentioned you had trepidations about returning to the stage. What was the main concern?
A: Stamina at age 61. I didn't want to look bad up there, and I don't think I have. I've worked really hard to get myself into shape, and I'm getting thinner every week. I've lost 20 or 25 pounds since the first show.
Q: You've got most of the original Silver Bullet Band, including longtime members Alto Reed (saxophone), Shaun Murphy and Laura Creamer (both vocals). Any changes in the band?
A: We've got a young horn section out of Detroit, the Motor City Horns, and they're really good. That's something I decided to do the last week before I went on tour. (Laughs)
Q: The new album has a bluesy edge in several places. Have you been getting deeper into the blues?
A: I've always liked the blues-based electric guitar - (Eric) Clapton, (Jimi) Hendrix and (Jeff) Beck - and the guys who came before them - Albert King, Freddie King, B.B. King. I think you hear a little bit of that on this record; it's finally coming out.
Q: You cover some social issues on the CD. What prompted you to speak out about the Iraq war in No More?
A: When (U.S. Rep.) Jack Murtha came forward and was a solitary voice in the wilderness saying, "It's time to bring them home," I thought that was so brave. I started thinking about it then.
Q: You also comment on American consumerism in Are You.
A: That stems from me being around my kids. They're watching their cartoon shows, and they're slinging ads at them every five minutes. It got me thinking about the bigger picture, about how we're so inundated (and) overloaded with commercialism to the point where we buy a lot of stuff we don't need.
Q: Are you surprised that so many classic rockers have remained entertaining and relevant into their 50s and 60s?
When classic rocker Bob Seger sang "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" in Phoenix on Tuesday, he meant it.
And judging from the reaction at the nearly sold-out US Airways Center, the Michigan rocker's loyal fans wholeheartedly agree.
Seger and his famed Silver Bullet Band served up more than two hours of longtime radio hits and new straight-ahead rockers, and the baby boomer-heavy audience ate up every minute of it.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer hasn't toured in a decade, and he was treated like a long-lost friend by fans who stood and danced in the aisles for much of the evening.
Seger, 61, made no effort to modernize his show -- there were no video screens, for example -- but the concertgoers couldn't have cared less.
They were there to hear old-school rock at its finest, and Seger & Co. delivered. With several longtime Silver Bullet Band members still onboard -- including vocalists Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy, sax man Alto Reed and keyboardist Craig Frost -- Seger showed that his live outfit remains a smooth-running machine.
They cranked out strong versions of the hits the fans had come to hear: the show-opening "Roll Me Away," the bar-band staple "Old Time Rock N Roll" (somehow still fresh when this bunch plays it), the romantic "We've Got Tonight" and the rocking "Katmandu," to name just a few from a catalog that has sold 50 million albums.
Seger is grayer and stockier than in his '70s and '80s heyday, but he's built up his stamina during a lengthy tour that is winding down. He worked the stage well, often without a guitar, and pumped his fist continually.
His voice is a little huskier than back in the day, but he nailed the lyrics and put his songs across well.
And when he turned to such rock masterpieces as "Mainstreet," "Turn the Page," "Night Moves" and "Against the Wind," the result was still magical.
The addition of the young, Detroit-based Motor City Horns just before the tour launched proved to be a wise move. Combined with veteran Reed, the brass players gave even the ancient "Travelin' Man" new life.
Seger also showed a desire to remain relevant by showcasing some of the new songs from his latest album, 2006's "Face the Promise." The rocking "Wreck This Heart" and the Southern-rock flavored "Answer's the Question" were well-received.
Seger showed his confidence in the new material by playing two songs from the CD back-to-back -- the middle-of-the road rocker "No Matter Who You Are" and the gritty title track, featuring the bespectacled star playing a Fender Telecaster.
It's unclear whether Seger will tour again. He was reluctant to go back on the road until his children, ages 11 and 13, urged him to do it so they could see him onstage.
It had been more than a decade since Bob Seger passed through the Valley, and a packed-to-the-rafters US Airways Center crowd Tuesday night was more than ready to hear the Detroit rocker's soulful vocals and the songs that made up the soundtrack of their youth.
"It took them a long time to talk (Seger) into touring again," said Frank Unger, 48, of Chandler. "But I'm sure glad they did."
Dressed in the blue-collar uniform of a T-shirt and jeans, Seger kicked off the two-and-a-half hour show with "Roll Me Away," bouncing along with the music and pumping his fists at the crowd, triumphant after a long hiatus, and looking none the worse for wear at 61 years old.
Unlike plenty of touring classic rock artists who only play one or two tunes from a new disc and concentrate on their biggest hits of the past, Seger and his longtime backing group, The Silver Bullet Band, played six songs from Seger's 2006 comeback disc "Face the Promise," and the new songs, constructed much like his best work of the past, received an enthusiastic response.
But it was clearly Seger's hits from the gilded age of pre-corporate FM radio, the '70s and '80s, that got the mostly 40-and-over crowd dancing in the aisles and singing aloud with every word, classics such as "Main Street," "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll" and "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight."
While Seger can certainly get a crowd on its feet with the best of them, it is Seger's underrated slower work, such as "Turn the Page," "We've Got Tonight" -- arguably his most beautiful ballad (both of which Seger sung while playing a grand piano) -- and "Night Moves" that placed him among the top singer/songwriters of the '70s and '80s.
After a 10-minute intermission, Seger and his band came back out with a newer song, "Simplicity" (which sounded a bit like Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry"), before playing his first-ever hit, 1968's swampy soul tune "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" followed by Chuck Berry's "C'est la Vie," and ending his set with the rockers "Horizontal Bop" and "Katmandu."
Seger saved perhaps the biggest of his hits for the two encores, playing "Night Moves," "Hollywood Nights," "Against the Wind" and leaving the stage after "Rock & Roll Never Forgets" to a standing ovation.
"He's my all time favorite," said Paula Kozak of Phoenix. "His emotion, his words his integrity &endash; he's sincere. Why was he gone so long?"
When another concertgoer told Kozak that Seger had retired to help raise his two young sons in Michigan, Kozak smiled.
"That's an inspiration in itself," she said.
Some great reviews already on your site, but after sending you an email after the NC show, I had to send you another one.
Tickets went quick in Phoenix. For I could not get to ticketmaster.com for the first 10 minutes when they went on sale. Later at the show I am talking to a lady beside me sure enough she was standing inline at a retail store and she and I both got tickets at about the same time. We were on the 2nd level. So I'd say that tickets were sold out within an hour easily.
USAirways Arena doesn't always have good sound. It's a basketball arena not a concert hall. This night the sound was the best I've ever heard at the arena. A person behind me who had never seen Bob Seger before was questioning how the sound would be and how well the playing would be. I told her, "Wait until he walk on stage." By the end of the second song, she leaned over and said, "The sound is great and the band is so tight. They look like they've been playing together forever." Will a few of them have been together nearly 40 years.
Bob did not talk as much in AZ as he did in NC. But I thought he really pointed out the band members more. When the spotlight was to be on the drummer he was pointing to the drummer and when it should be on Alto Reed he was pointing at him and so on. Between pointing out his band members and fist pumps in the air no wonder he has lost 20 pounds since the tour started. He gives it a good aerobic exercise while on stage.
I was exercising my lungs, singing alone with the crowd and hollering and clapping at the end of songs. I gave it my all knowing that this would be my last show of this tour. Although holding out hope for a fall tour. Can I be so selfish to want more?
Tonight Bob Seger rocked Phoenix, Arizona for the first time in more than 10 years, and he did it with style. The satisfaction of hearing 15,000 people singing the words to song after song that you have written must be the ultimate dream of a songwriter and performer. Bob Seger has achieved that dream. From the first note of Roll Me Away, to the last note of Rock And Roll Never Forgets, Bob Seger, along with his audience, performed inside the U.S. Airways Arena in the heart of downtown Phoenix.
Bob smoothly ran through his well-selected 25 song set list. It didn't matter if the song he performed was from Face The Promise, like Wreck This Heart and Simplicity, or from Live Bullet, like Travelin' Man, or the title cut from Beautiful Loser, they all sucked you into his performance. The audience simply couldn't resist clapping, stomping, singing, dancing and being part of his concert.
It was evident Bob Seger was having as much fun as his fans were in the packed arena. He looked good in his casual black jeans, black t-shirt and headband. He was relaxed and comfortable "up on the stage again." Like they say, a true professional makes it look easy, that's exactly what Bob did the entire evening. He worked hard, but he made it look easy and it was fun to listen to the music we've enjoyed for decades. It didn't matter to Bob; in fact it was clear that he enjoyed sharing the spotlight with the backup singers and band members. He proudly introduced all of them, his admiration and appreciation of them was crystal clear. They all worked hard, he knew it, they knew it and we appreciated it.
The Silver Bullet Band was crisp and sharp. Alto Reed highlighted the show with spurts of soulful music flowing from his saxophone as he strutted and danced around the stage. He was at his best with the haunting beginning of Turn The Page. Bob's voice soon blended in and before we knew it we were all on the same journey, word for word, " is that a woman or a man you always seem outnumbered, you don't dare make a stand " What a great song.
The sound mixing was perfect. Bob's powerful voice echoed out clearly over the Silver Bullet's driving music. His voice has changed over the years; it's matured with a deeper raspier sound than it was even 10 years ago. Still, it has the recognizable sound that uniquely belongs to Seger.
The mixture of new songs with the old was a perfect blend. After Face The Promise, Bob easily slid into Sunspot Baby and good old Betty Lou's Getting' Out Tonight. Then we were treated to pure Seger has he sat at the piano and sang We've Got Tonight, like I've never heard it before. He didn't miss a note, proving to his fans once again he's as good a performer as he is a songwriter.
Tuesday night Phoenix Arizona, and what seemed to be a old out crowd!! I could not see one empty seat! I have seen Seger four times now -- two times in 87' once in 96, and now in 07. And all I have to say is that Seger gets better with age!!!
Tonight's show was amazing! I was shocked at how well me moved and how great he sounded! This is one of the best concerts I have ever been to. The new stuff from Face The Promise sounded really good live! The Motor City Horns were awesome!!! The song that stuck out alot was The Fire Down Below, because the Horn section wailed on it! Seger himself was so grateful towards the audience. I can't tell you how wonderful the show was!!!
Bob Seger sports a new look on the cover of his first new record in 12 years, "Face the Promise," released in September and already certified platinum. At age 61, Seger lets his snow-white hair show. He stopped using the Grecian Formula 10 years ago, just about the same time he disappeared from the road.
"I'll blame it on him," Seger says over the phone from his Michigan office. "It was Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers who told me it was a rock star's duty to dye his hair."
And Seger has been an authentic rock star since the one-two punch of "Live Bullet," the 1976 concert album by Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, which went on to sell more than 4 million copies, and his 1976 studio album, "Night Moves," his first platinum album. He was one of the towering figures of American classic rock of the era. Although he cut back his touring and recording schedules drastically in the '80s, his music stayed alive through motion picture soundtracks such as "Beverly Hills Cop II" and Chevrolet television commercials featuring his "Like a Rock."
Seger dropped out entirely in the mid-'90s to watch his two young children grow, work on his cars and captain his sailboat to two victories in the annual race from Port Huron to Mackinac. It was his kids, he says, who wanted him to go back on tour. But first he had to finish his record, only his fourth album in 20 years.
"I did another record that was completely unreleased that had a working title of 'Blue Ridge' -- that was one of the songs on it, real funny rhythm thing," he says. "And I did that all with Silver Bullet. We did about 14 or 15 songs, and we ended up getting rid of it because we cut it in 16-bit digital and it sounded so terrible when we tried to mix it. It was just real small, and we couldn't make it big. That was when I shifted to Pro Tools, about 1999.
"I don't want to blame the engineer. We cut on a 24-bit machine, but he decided to use 16-bit so he could use it back in L.A., and he didn't tell us. So we cut all these tracks, and we ended up firing the engineer. It was like a shock to us. Then we tried to save it for a couple of years because we loved the energy in the tracks, worked so hard on them. At that time, there were only, like, eight or nine 24-bit machines in the country, and we thought we were cutting on one. Well, we were cutting on one, but he was cutting at 16 bits. It sounded terrible.
"We dumped the whole thing, and then I kind of started over. I started working in '99. 'Face the Promise' was the first song on this album that I recorded."
Seger spent the next several years painstakingly piecing together the new album at his souped-up cabin in the woods near Clarkston, Mich., about 12 miles from his home, where he keeps his music studio. He recorded tracks in Nashville and then returned to his rustic retreat for scrupulous post-production.
"I hit my stride right around 2004," he says. "The Hall of Fame, that spiked me a little bit, and I started working a little harder. When my kids saw me in the Hall of Fame -- they're now 11 and 14 -- they really wanted to see me tour. That spiked me even higher. I said, 'Well, if I'm going to tour, I better really get to work on this.' But it still took me three years. I'm really slow.
"I cut a lot of songs, tried a lot of different things. I did about 30 more, and we ended up picking the best 12 out of those."
But even once the songs were recorded, Seger went over them in fine-point detail.
"We keep adding stuff," he says. "If you listen to something like 'Between,' we came up with all sorts of stuff. It would take forever to do it right. Way back, there's a tympani drum thing, all sorts of crazy stuff, stuff we like doing. We just get carried away.
"I don't change the vocals all that much. I like a lot of organic things, too. Most of the vocal of 'Between' is the same vocal. The same thing with 'Are You.' I think I capture a good deal of it at the session when I'm still hot on the song and I've been singing it a lot, rehearsing it a lot. And on the session, I probably get about 80 percent of the vocal. When I try to redo it, it doesn't sound the same. I'm just locked into that vocal. It's really a lot of other stuff we're working on -- guitar solos, guitar fills. Backgrounds we take forever on, which is weird because the gals out here on the road are singing phenomenal. But we take forever on the backgrounds. I don't know why.
"Springsteen's the same way. My friend Don Henley's the same way. The Eagles are the same way. Everybody I know, they love the process of making records, the possibilities and trying different things and throwing them away, trying different things and throwing them away. It's just fun, especially with Pro Tools -- it's really fun to mess with them."
As he winds up his first tour of the new century, Seger is looking forward to taking the summer off. His longtime manager, Punch Andrews, who also handles Kid Rock these days, hasn't seen his fishing boat in three years, Seger reckons. Whether not they take up everything again in the fall remains to be seen.
SAN FRANCISCO -- It's been a decade since Motor City mainstay Bob Seger has toured. But that doesn't mean the 61-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer hasn't been hitting the road.
If he can, he says, he'll do 300 miles a day on one of his three vintage-chassis Harley Davidson Dyna Wide Glide motorcycles.
"And I don't have a windshield, either -- I don't believe in 'em. Of course, I have a helmet and face shield, though. But I'm a real hard-core guy, and that's a really spiritual time for me, on my Harley. A really quiet time when I just take in nature and enjoy the wind, the trees, the fields and any animals I might see," he says.
Seger is posed astride a chopper on the cover of "Face the Promise," his new, already platinum Capitol comeback album; his tour comes to Oakland this week.
His bike will be with him. "Because I've always got these two certain things that I do while I'm in Oakland," he explains. "I'll ride to Seal Rock, out west of town, and watch the seals. And then I'll cross the Golden Gate Bridge and go up to Stinson Beach overlook."
If Seger sounds Zenlike, it's for good reason. He's learned many life lessons of late, several of which he maps out songs on the new album -- all delivered in the same growl that landed him a Legends of the Jukebox Award for "Old Time Rock & Roll," the most-played song by a male artist in arcade history.
Yet he hasn't found a new belief system. He says, "It's really not religion as much as it is just common sense -- it's a Midwest thing. I've never lived on the coasts and gotten caught up in the flash and the dash, so for me it's family and old friendships. You try to be honest with people, you try to reward loyalty, and you take the responsibility -- in my case, for my kids, who are 11 and 14. I can't drop the ball on that. I've got a great wife, we've been together since '89. So that's a really good foundation."
In fact, Seger signed off concerts simply so he could watch his children grow up. And for the first 30 dates of this tour, he's been jetting home after every show to see his kids get up in the morning.
It's all about inner peace, says the singer, whose journey began with late-'70s smashes "Night Moves" and "Stranger In Town"; the more reflective 1980 follow up, "Against the Wind," found him "starting to question what it all meant, once you reach that level of fame."
Now he has a cabin on 20 secluded Michigan acres in Clarkston, 12 miles north of his family digs in Orchard Lake. "And if it's nice out, I'll just be sitting on my front porch, writing lyrics. I've got deer, rabbits, hawks, owls and just tons of robins."
[Note: Same story as originally printed on the CBS Sunday Morning site.]
(CBS) DETROIT, Mich. For a long time, Bob Seger and his music were just about everywhere: on the radio, in concert, in the movies and on TV commercials.
But if you'd been looking for him lately, you should have checked on his sailboat, his garage or around the house with the wife and kids.
"Most of the time, I'm here in Michigan and I'm taking out the garbage every Monday," he told CBS News recently. "I get up and move a couple of cans out to the edge of the road like everybody else."
Seger lives a surprisingly ordinary life that lasted longer than most musician's careers. But now, after a decade out of the spotlight and off the charts, Seger is back. The Motor City rocker performs in concert this upcoming Saturday at 8 p.m. at Oakland's Oracle Arena.
"It's really exciting," he said. "It's really fun to go to work."
Work right now for the 61-year-old is the national tour with his Silver Bullet Band -- the first since 1996 -- and a new album, "Face The Promise," that debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts. It took Seger 11 years to release a new album, mostly because he was busy raising his children, he said.
"I had kids at age 47, and very late in life, and I'd been doing it for 30 straight years, writing songs, making a record and touring and starting the process right over," he said. "Then I had the kids and [thought], you know, it might be a good time to slow down and watch them grow up -- you're never gonna get another chance to see it."
The rock star-turned-house husband says that as he watched his son and daughter grow, he grew himself. And he wrote the new songs with a very special audience in mind.
"A lot of it is me, maybe in a subterranean manner, offering advice to my kids," he said. "When you have kids, you start thinking about their future and you forget about yours. So I feel I've gotta take a stand on certain things. I wanna tell them how I feel about things -- this may be my last chance to do it. You know, I'm 61 years old, so I want to go on record with them a little bit."
Seger was born in Detroit and grew up as rock 'n' roll was taking form. He knew early that music was in his blood. His father, an auto worker, played six instruments and passed his passion on to his son.
"I always loved music. You know, my parents said I started singing when I was 4, in the car," Seger said. "Elvis came along when I was 10. My father gave me a bass ukulele. I taught myself how to play from a book to play some chords, so I was laying down 'Hound Dog' and things like that when I was 10 years old in 1955. That's the way I was. My ear was glued to the radio. I knew right then what I wanted to do."
After high school, he did a couple of short stints in car plants, but the assembly line wasn't for him. So he hit the road, playing as many as 250 club dates a year with a variety of bands while gaining a faithful, but mostly Midwestern, following.
"When we played, we had what it took to move an audience. We always had that," Seger said. "So we always, in a sense, felt successful, you know? We just didn't have the money and the radio airplay and the records to prove it at that time."
Seger's big break finally came in his home town. "Live Bullet," recorded at Detroit's Cobo Hall in 1975, became one of the most successful concert albums of all time. He took us back to where it all happened.
"It's pretty wild," Seger said as he visited the hall recently. "I haven't been here in a while. Thirty-one years ago we did 'Live Bullet' here. September 4th and 5th, in '75, yeah -- right on that stage."
"Live Bullet" shot up the charts, and turned platinum the same day a second Seger album, "Night Moves," also sold a million copies. The extraordinary one-two punch propelled the Heartland secret onto the national stage.
"I like to think we went straight from station wagons to jets," he said. "There were no busses in between. It just took off like a skyrocket."
It was a 20-year ride fueled by a series of high-flying albums, with songs like "Against the Wind" that became rock 'n' roll standards.
Then, in 1996, a life of long drives and sharp turns took yet another twist. Seger decided to take paternity leave. He headed back to the Detroit area for good to help raise his son and daughter.
Actor Jeff Daniels, another celebrity who made his living in Hollywood but stayed home in Michigan, understands as both a father and a fan.
"It's the same thing with me," Daniels said. "Family came first. And with Bob, family came first. And everything else came second. He probably came to a point where the kids got a little older, when they become teenagers, they kinda go, 'We don't need you as much.' I think when Bob's kids said that he should go out and be Bob Seger, I think that gave Bob permission to go out and get back into that creative life again."
Seger said his children enjoy his career because they see their father as a rock star. In fact, he said they are his biggest supporters.
"They want to see me on stage so they're just getting it, you know, what I do," Seger said. "'Awesome, Dad.' That's what my son says."
"Face the Promise," filled with songs written during Seger's hiatus, has already gone platinum, adding to the 50 million albums he's sold over his career, but Seeger still cannot identify what inspires him.
"It's mysterious," Seger said. "You don't know what inspires you. You like to think you know what inspires you, but in the final analysis I don't think you really do. It's great to look at a blank sheet of paper, you know, and walk up to an instrument and not know what's gonna happen. It's the most challenging thing I do."
But taking a soon-to-be-senior-citizen's body back on the road for a 4-month tour is no picnic, either. Seger made sure he had his doctor's permission, and for now is keeping his plans decidedly short-term.
"I'm not looking past March, you know what I mean?" he said. "The tour is gonna run till March and we'll see how I feel after that. I just do everything as it comes. One day at a time."
Any day with Seger, is still enough to get fans to spend a night in line. One man said he drove 600 miles to see Seger. Even his teenage kids were excited about the show.
"I've been trying to see him for 30 years. This is the first chance I got and I took it," he said.
For the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, it's enough that he's still a good father, and his fans are still faithful. The rest, he says, will take care of itself. He hopes people will remember him as someone who told the truth about what he experienced.
At 61, Bob Seger has a secret for keeping his voice, and his personal life, in shape.
He doesn't hang out, party and schmooze after the show. Every night after work, Seger goes straight home to his wife and kids. Even when it's a thousand-mile commute.
``The second I stop singing, I start resting the voice for the next show,'' says Seger, who flies home on a chartered plane after every concert. "So getting on the plane I don't talk, and in the car I don't talk. I wake up the next morning, and then I start talking again.''
The regimen seems to be working. Seger is getting stellar reviews for his "Face the Promise'' tour, which hits Oakland's Oracle Arena on Saturday.
"The voice has held up,'' says Seger, who is performing just three shows a week on this tour. "We've done 38 shows, and I haven't had any vocal trouble yet. Knock wood.''
The tour is the first for the Detroit rocker in more than a decade, and it supports his first album of new music since 1995's "It's a Mystery.''
After his 1996 tour, Seger turned his focus to his wife and kids, now 14 and 11, but he says he never left music behind.
"I would write when the kids were in school, about five or six hours'' a day, Seger says. "I kept my hand in. I kept singing and playing over at my workplace,'' a studio 12 miles from his house in the Detroit suburbs.
He even recorded an album of new material with his Silver Bullet Band in the late '90s, called "Blue Ridge,'' but decided to keep it on the shelf, saying he was unsatisfied with the sound quality.
"It was just very thin,'' Seger says, "so we scrapped the whole thing.''
By the time he decided to make "Face the Promise,'' Seger had accumulated a whole album's worth of new material. He opted to head to Nashville, where he worked with some of the city's top session musicians as well as country star Patty Loveless, who sings a duet on "The Answer's in the Question.''
Seger says he chose to work with session musicians rather than the Silver Bullet Band purely for the sake of expediency.
"It wasn't that the band couldn't cut it,'' he says. "It was just that I got tired of being in the studio. I just wanted to get it done quickly.''
The album features 11 new Seger songs, plus a version of Vince Gill's "Real Mean Bottle,'' performed as a duet with fellow Detroiter Kid Rock.
Capitol Records tried with limited success to promote the album's first single, "Wait for Me,'' to country radio, but the album steers clear of the trappings of country music -- it's got just a touch of fiddle, and no pedal steel. It's simply a Bob Seger record.
"Face the Promise'' has plenty of rockers, but Seger also has serious issues on his mind.
"No More,'' which compares the Vietnam War with the current one in Iraq, was inspired by Rep. Jack Murtha's call to bring the troops home.
The most striking song is "Won't Stop,'' a haunting exploration of addiction, similar in tone to "Turn the Page,'' which follows the rollicking "Real Mean Bottle.''
"I really like that song,'' Seger says of "Won't Stop.'' "It was kind of like an answer to all the country drinking songs.''
Seger says his children, who were too young to take in his concerts in 1996, encouraged him to return to the road. He says they love coming to the shows, but adds that his daughter wasn't pleased to learn that his touring responsibilities meant he couldn't take her to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony or the Grammys.
The current live show mixes Seger classics such as "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll,'' "Night Moves'' and "Against the Wind'' with six or seven cuts from the new record.
"I wish we could do more, but it's asking a lot of the audience,'' Seger says. "It's hard when there's so many familiar songs that people want to hear from my career, which is really, really long, and everybody's got favorites.''
One new wrinkle this time is the presence of a horn section, a last-minute addition inspired by Seger's memories of a Bruce Springsteen concert with the Miami Horns in the 1980s.
The Motor City Horns add a touch of brass to Seger and the Silver Bullet Band on numbers such as "Katmandu'' and "Rock 'n' Roll Never Forgets.''
"I only use them on eight or nine of the 25 songs I do,'' Seger says. "But when they come on, it's a nice change.''
His buddy Kid Rock has been advocating a summer tour together, but Seger says he needs some downtime once the tour wraps up on March 15 in Detroit before planning his next move.
He had no video screens, no pyrotechnics and no costume changes, except for a quick exchange of black T-shirts at the halfway point and the occasional replacement of a sweat-drenched headband. He might have looked like a dad dressed to clean out the garage, but Bob Seger managed to keep a capacity crowd on its feet for most of a two-hour show Saturday at Oakland's Oracle Arena.
Seger, of course, is helped immeasurably by a staggeringly deep catalog. He reached all the way back to 1968 for "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," and it's hard to think of a performer who could leave out so many memorable hits and still deliver a satisfying show. There was no "Still the Same," no "Fire Lake," no "You'll Accomp'ny Me," no "Shame on the Moon," and thankfully no "Like a Rock" or "Shakedown."
His voice was in good shape throughout, although he doesn't have the upper-register wail anymore. I'm not sure he could pull off "Even Now" these days, for example. But he was like a veteran receiver who no longer has blinding speed, but makes up for it by running exquisite routes. (Although I don't think he'll be following Jerry Rice onto "Dancing With the Stars" &emdash; he actually dances a lot like me, which isn't good.)
The Silver Bullet Band was in fine form, and despite having up to 14 musicians on stage at a time, the sound was remarkably clear and distinct for the arena. Longtime saxophonist Alto Reed and pianist Craig Frost got plenty of time in the spotlight, and ex-Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer provided a solid beat and pulled off the Kid Rock vocal part to "Real Mean Bottle" without breaking a sweat.
Bob Seger looks like an ordinary guy. No rock-star poodle-dog haircut. No fancy custom-made guitars. Wearing nothing more than jeans, a black T-shirt and a sweatband across his forehead, the bespectacled Seger, back on the road after a lengthy hiatus, beamed as he belted out lyrics and basked in the adoration of a full house Saturday at the Oracle Arena.
His very ordinariness is actually a crucial ingredient of his appeal. He pumps his fist into the air, backing up from the microphone, immersed in the mighty sound of his huge band, just like any other fan, only with the best seat in the house.
Seger struck a powerful chord with his following. His new album, his first in 11 years, "Face the Promise," has sold more than a million copies since its release in September, although there is scant evidence of that on radio airwaves. But the enormously successful tour has brought out the crusty old fans, ready again to stomp and shout along to "Old Time Rock & Roll," "Katmandu," "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" and all the others.
At age 61, Seger went to high school during rock 'n' roll's golden years and Buddy Holly hovers over songs such as "Main Street" or "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight" (he even covered Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" in the show). His music is so strongly rooted in sensibilities drawn from the American heartland that he is virtually unknown in England, where his brawny Midwestern rock has little relevance or resonance.
Although Seger salted his two-set, two-hour, 25-song concert with new numbers from "Face the Promise," nobody really wants to hear a new record from Bob Seger. Or Joni Mitchell. Or Steve Miller. Or, as the band is about to discover, the Eagles. His body of work is complete -- from "Night Moves" to "Like a Rock," the Seger canon is set in stone and the latest offerings are merely incidental.
Sketching out stories drawn from everyday life of furtive backseat sex, the fleeting romance of life as it was lived in days gone by, or vaguely ponderous, quasi-philosophic ruminations, nothing too deep, Seger, along with other rockers such as Bruce Springsteen or fellow Midwesterner John Mellencamp, is one of rock's great Everymen. Actually he was never one of the greats, but has always been one of the really goods.
From regional beginnings in his Michigan youth, Seger spent a decade subsisting on the hometown appeal of records such as "2+2=?" or "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," a song he performed Saturday, noting the band had not played it before this tour in 26 years. His first San Francisco appearance took place before about 50 curious spectators at a long-defunct North Beach nitery called the Orphanage. It took the double whammy of the near simultaneous release of his 1976 concert double-album, "Live Bullet," and subsequent studio album, "Night Moves," his first million-seller, to launch Seger as a nationwide artist.
He has come to stand so much for those mid-American blue-collar values, Chevrolet commandeered "Like a Rock" as the Detroit car company's trademark slogan for ages. The crowd at Oakland looked like those advertisements' target demographic -- middle-aged, salt-of-the-earth, beer-drinking, gray-haired guys with their blue-jeaned rock 'n' roll mamas, all weaned on '70s classic rock. They stood and cheered "Old Time Rock & Roll," the fifth song of the first half, until the building shook.
With three background vocalists and a four-man horn section, Seger's 14-piece band packed a wallop (longtime Seger background vocalist Shaun Murphy is also the current lead vocalist in Little Feat; background vocalist Laura Creamer has been with Seger nearly 40 years; drummer Don Brewer belonged to another great '70s Detroit rock tradition, Grand Funk Railroad). Appearing on a clean, open stage, the band could be a little corny or a little cheesy, but that comes with the territory. These are not hip cats from the coasts. But they can certainly get Seger's sometimes ham-fisted songs across with certainty.
In his prime, Bob Seger could run with the best of 'em.
He was a legendary live performer, widely considered to be as good as, if not better than, Bruce Springsteen.
That reputation, however, was forged long ago, back when Seger was in his early 30s and supporting such albums as 1976's "Night Moves" and 1978's "Stranger in Town." It's certainly not based on recent history. Indeed, Seger's current tour is his first in more than a decade.
That's why it was so hard to know what to expect going into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's performance Saturday night at Oracle Arena. There was a distinct possibility that, after such a lengthy layoff, Seger wouldn't be able to live up to his own legend.
The 61-year-old Detroit rocker quickly put those fears to rest when he opened the Oakland show with an inspired take on "Roll Me Away" that sounded even stronger than the version he recorded on 1982's "The Distance." From there, Seger and his sensational Silver Bullet Band motored through another 23 selections that firmly connected with the 12,000-plus fans in the building.
Not surprisingly, it was an older crowd, filled with longtime listeners who can remember buying Seger records on vinyl and maybe could still find old 8-track tapes of 1975's "Beautiful Loser" stashed away in boxes in their garages. Yet, this audience showed the type of youthful exuberance one used to see from a teenie-bopper crowd at an 'N Sync concert.
It would be difficult to find a crowd that was more into an entire show, from the opening number to the final encore, than what was witnessed in Oakland. It would also be hard to find a more enthusiastic performer than what we saw in Seger.
The vocalist appeared to be having the time of his life, pumping his fists in the air while grinning from ear to ear, as he led the Silver Bullet Band into a revved-up take on the Eugene Williams-penned soul classic "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" (which Seger recorded on the great 1981 concert album "Nine Tonight").
Correctly gauging the desires of his crowd, Seger kept the evening's focus on the older, up-tempo hits and delivered such raucous party anthems as "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight" and "The Horizontal Bop" (both from 1980's "Against the Wind"). An early highlight was Seger's fiery take on the fan favorite "Old Time Rock and Roll," the tune that a young, underwear-clad Tom Cruise helped immortalize in the 1983 film "Risky Business." The singer, who can still hit most of his notes, also used the occasion to acquaint fans with material from last year's "Face the Promise." Seger played half of the album, which was his first new studio set since 1995's "It's a Mystery." Most of the selections, most notably "Wreck This Heart," "Wait for Me" and the title track, sounded far superior to the album versions.
Possibly the greatest compliment one can give these new songs is that the fans treated them as more than just annoying speed bumps along the otherwise hit-filled highway.
Still, a wave of pure joy would wash forth from the crowd whenever Seger entered into a string of classics. That wave hit near tsunami-like proportions when the star played the quadruple shot of "We've Got Tonight," "Turn the Page," "Travelin' Man" and "Beautiful Loser" (Seger has been combining the latter two since at least 1976).
I made it to the Oakland concert Saturday night. Have read the reviews you have posted and agree that it was certainly one of the best concerts I have been to. The band was outstanding and Alto Reed was amazing on Sax. The only problem was with the Arena itself. There was so much echo and they had the band amped up so high that you could hardly hear Seger singing. What you did hear showed that his voice was in perfect pitch and amazing, but for people like my wife who isnt a fanatic seger fan like I am and dosn't know the words to all the songs there was a lot of problems hearing the words and following the lyrics. I blame mainly the echo that existed in the Arena, which was just a roar coming from the opposite walls, but also the mixer guys who amped the band up so high that you couldn't hear Seger clearly over it, which of course is why we all came to the concert in the first place.
Seger ACED Oakland. He got it RIGHT!
Best of Set: "Face the Promise" & Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell (C'est La Vie)" A+
Playing guitar, pumpin' fists, directing his band, and rocking HARD! Long live Seger!!!
Silver Bullet Band A+ + +
The new album and tour are probably one of the best rock-n-roll stories of the past ten years, maybe twenty.
I don't know if the new album supports the tour, or the tour supports the new album. Either way, both are Crown Jewels in a Hall of Fame career.
All promises have now officially been faced and Seger can proudly head back to his yacht and relax.
I'd love to see "Are You" worked into the set-list somewhere, but I can't imagine where he'd find the room. (maybe in time for Live Bullet Jr.?).
Hot, hot tickets, for sure.
WORCESTER -- Bob Seger proved he's not too old to rock and roll Tuesday night, as the Michigan native and his Silver Bullet Band thrilled a packed house of mostly gray-haired fans.
Seger made a triumphant return to the DCU Center in Worcester after years off the road, playing a litany of hits and classics, along with numerous songs from his latest offering, "Face The Promise."
Seger's band, which included two guitarists, three backup singers, a four-piece horn section and legendary saxophonist Alto Reed, created a wall of sound that carried the 61-year-old through the occasional times when he reached for a high note and couldn't make it.
Seger's voice for the most part, still sounded strong, especially on the rockers.
The crowd, which quietly tolerated opening act Steve Azur, roared to life when Seger opened with "Roll Me Away."
He then played for two hours, with a short intermission, focusing on the Heartland rock anthems and ballads that propelled him to the Rock N' Roll Hame of Fame.
Dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt, Seger played hit after hit, including "Main Street," "Old Time Rock N' Roll," "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight," "We've Got Tonight," "Turn the Page," "Travelin' Man-Beautiful Loser," "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," "Fire Down Below" and the "Horizontal Bop."
He returned for two encores, starting with "Night Moves," where his voice betrayed him a little as he reached for high notes, followed by a blistering version of "Hollywood Nights."
He then returned again and closed with "Against the Wind" and "Rock N' Roll Never Forgets."
There was little to quibble with about the show, except that Seger played too many songs from his new album, and left out other classic songs at their expense.
He played a number of new songs, including strong ones like "Wreck This Heart," and "Real Mean Bottle," which was written by country artist Vince Gill, but also slowed things down to play the album's first single, "Wait For Me," which is easily the weakest song on the new release.
Fans responded politely to the new songs, but the show reached another level when Seger focused on his classic hits.
But by playing all the new stuff, fans didn't get to hear some of Seger's older great material like "Feel Like A Number," or rarely played jewels like "Brave Strangers."
Seger seemed unfailingly at ease during the two-hour concert, ambling slowly from one side of the stage to the other with a broad smile on his face.
But at 61, his days of storming around the stage and jumping on pianos to play guitar are over.
That didn't stop him from captivating the crowd, which was filled mostly with people in their 40s, 50s and 60s, although there were a few younger fans sprinkled into the mix.
The sad part about the night is that this may be Seger's last major tour, which means diehard fans will only see him in videos, unless they can catch him later on the tour.
Old-time rock 'n' roll carries Seger in concert
WORCESTER -- Bob Seger fans aren't born, they are made one make-out session at a time to the tunes the uncomplicated Detroit rocker has been crafting since the mid-60s.
Maybe it's "Night Moves" pushing your buttons, or "Against the Wind" tripping the switch on some memory, or any one of a couple of dozen other Seger songs that bluntly tell a romanticized tale wrapped in the virtues of decent men and women stumbling toward and away from each other as things inevitably roll and change.
When he was 31, Seger never bought into the modern world, preferring old-time rock 'n' roll to newfangled disco, and now at 61, you better believe the graying and grizzled rocker is even more set in his ways. His old songs about old songs now provide a double dose of nostalgia as Seger mounts concert stages for the first time in a decade.
But many appreciate what the man has to say as Seger filled the DCU Center last night, just a couple of days after selling out the Garden in Boston.
And while Seger is ostensibly out promoting a decent-enough new album, "Face the Promise," it was the back catalog that carried the night.
Backed by many senior members of his Silver Bullet Band, which now also includes Grand Funk Railroad alum Don Brewer on drums, Seger pushed off his concert with the slow-building urgency of "Roll Me Away." While the hip-shaking swagger of "Trying to Live My Life Without You" should have built momentum in the show's second slot, it instead betrayed what Seger and the Silver Bullet band have given up to the years between the high-water concert mark captured on "Live Bullet" and now. Basically like anyone or thing that gets older, Seger and his band are just a bit more pokey than they used to be. The spirt is there, but the punch is softened. Thus every attempt to rock out -- a la "Old Time Rock and Roll," "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight" and the new "Wreck This Heart -- inevitably fell just short of igniting the crowd into an arena-rock spasm. Looking around, you saw a lot of people patiently shuffling to all the tunes they knew, yet waiting for that one big Bob song that somehow explained the world at a certain point in their lives.
Seger fared much better on the ballads and mid-tempo material, of which he has plenty. Such songs as "Main Street," "We've Got Tonight" and the over-the-top tour-weary "Turn the Page" provided high points in Seger's first set.
Seger is among the few rock singers who can claim to have grown into his voice. His husky rasp always sounded like the voice of someone way past the years he was living while making such signature records as "Live Bullet," "Night Moves" and "Stranger in Town." Seger dressed up that ever-bankable voice with a version of The Silver Bullet band that included bass player Chris Campbell, sax player Alto Reed, guitar players mark Chatfield and Jim "Moose" Brown, keyboard player Craig Frost, drummer Brewer, and backup singers Laura Murphy, Shaun Murphy and Barbara Payton. At times Seger also employed the four-piece Motor City Horns.
Seger paced his show in such a way as to spend time on a couple of records, including "Face the Promise," from which he played three songs in a row during the first set. A more riveting sequence came from "Live Bullet," as Seger tore through "Turn the Page" and fused "Travelin' Man" and "Beautiful Loser" into a lengthy workout
An ill-timed set break staunched the show's momentum, and Seger's second set never took off. The singer chose weaker chapters from his catalog, favoring the generic "Satisfied," for example, over the all-around better "You'll Accomp'ny Me." And a stiff cover of Chuck Berry's "C'est La Vie" was no substitute for an MIA "Still the Same," especially when that problem of putting snap into the rockers was nagging Seger all night.
The Detroit auto industry is running out of gas, the Tigers lost the World Series in five games, and Michigan narrowly missed a shot at the national collegiate title last fall. But cruel fate holds no dominion over the ageless Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet Band, one Detroit export that never disappoints.
Sixty one-year-old Seger -- on tour for the first time in a decade but looking fit and obviously running on high-octane fuel -- had a nearly sold-out house at the Verizon Center Thursday night bouncing in the aisles to his rockers and nodding and swaying to his schlockers. [Note: Schlockers? Huh??] After two-plus hours of Motor City mayhem, [Note: Mayhem??] there was no doubt that DC still likes Seger's old time rock and soul.
Mr. Seger says he preferred the music of James Brown to the Beatles in his youth, and it showed in his gospel-tinged, soul-shout vocals and the frequent use of R&B rhythms and arrangements by his band, which numbered 14 or so pieces when augmented by the Motor City Horns and three female back-up singers.
There is still nothing remotely pretentious about Mr. Seger. Now silver- haired and dressed in the same simple black t-shirt and jeans on both sides of the intermission, Mr. Seger frequently worked his way out to the far corners of the stage and exhorted the crowd to sing and move with him, pumping and thrusting his arms to the beat of ex-Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer. [Sic: Brewer is Grand Funk's drummer, not the ex-Grand Funk drummer.]
Mr. Seger's best songs paint vivid landscapes of working class America, real and mythic. You could feel the anguish of lonely and sometimes-harassed musicians stuck on the endless road on a riveting version of "Turn the Page," easily the best and most convincing ballad of the night. Alto Reed's plaintve, wailing sax lines pierced to the bone as Mr. Seger stroked the piano keys.
It was preceded by another ballad, "We've Got Tonight," which demonstrated Mr. Seger's regrettable tendency to sometimes sail a little too close to the reefs of Kenny Rogers-like schlock. Even though ballads such as those have accounted for most of his biggest hits, Mr. Seger is at his best when playing low-down, gritty rock'n'roll.
For this tour, Mr. Seger has revived -- for the first time in 26 years -- his 1968 hit, "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." Wisely, he didn't mess with the original formula, since it is hard to improve on perfection. The Bob Seger System, as the band was then called, wouldn't have another big hit for seven years, but the band continued to tour incessantly until the hits finally began to flow.
"Fire Down Below," which the band has not been performing at most other recent shows, is one of rock's true masterpieces of seething lust, a song that wouldn't be out of place on the Stones' "Exiles on Main Street" or "Sticky Fingers." Last night, the Silver Bullet Band hammered it home with visceral impact, with Mark Chatfield's lead guitar providing the proper sting and Chris Campbell (the band's bassist since 1968) making it all churn.
Mr. Seger closed the regular set with two more of the band's best rockers: "Horizontal Bop" and a frenzied "Katmandu." The band encored with "Night Moves" and "Hollywood Nights," then came back yet again for "Against the Wind" and "Rock 'n' Roll Never Forgets."
At some point since Bob Seger went away, rock-and-roll ceded the blue-collar anthem to country music. Now Seger, at 61, is back to reclaim it.
Seger brought his Silver Bullet Band and his workingman's wisdom to Verizon Center on Thursday and stayed punched in for nearly 2 1/2 hours. The show had fewer frills than dinner at the automat: no strobe lights or smoke bombs or even a single video monitor. Just a fabulous 15-person band, a few spotlights and a whole lot of songs that everybody knows the words to.
There were a handful of unknowns in the set, too: Seger, whose voice and joy in performing are as bountiful as ever, is now touring behind "Face the Promise," his first new CD in 11 years. From that disc he introduced such tunes as "Wreck This Heart," an old-school rocker about a guy who's "got bills to pay, promises to keep" and can't get the "big boss" off his back. Highlights among the golden oldies included a pair of apostrophized "man" songs: "Travelin' Man," featuring the drumming of ex-Grand Funk Railroad backbeater Don Brewer, and "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man."
Seger fans have long bristled at having their guy compared unfavorably to that other '70s arena rocker with the initials "BS" who led a big band featuring a sax player (Alto Reed has been playing with Seger for 35 years now) and sang about fictional down-on- their-luck members of the proletariat. The "Springsteen for Dummies" gibes come from the fact that a lot of Seger's most familiar stuff, namely anything with "rock" or "roll" or both in the title, relies on more Chuck Berry riffs than a Chuck Berry song and seems written to end up in car commercials or on wedding- reception playlists.
But it's also true that Seger's lyrics often rose to levels at least as lofty as anything Springsteen or any other pop artist delivered.
I grew up in Detroit in the 1970's, so Seger's music has always been a part of me. Live Bullet was one of the first albums I ever bought, and I still love it: the Travellin' Man - Beautiful Loser medley is one of my favorite performances by any artist. I moved away from Detroit after college, and somehow had never managed to see Seger live till now. I wasn't disappointed. Great show, and Bob and the band seemed just as delighted to be there as the audience was. My wife and I had seats on the second level up near stage right, and we were close to the band and the sound was great. I wore my vintage '84 (remember that season?) Tigers hat, and am pretty sure Seger saw it and returned a wave, which was cool.
Ask Bob Seger why he went away, and why he came back, and he gives the same answer: "My family." Like one of his songs, it's a simple, direct statement with a deeper meaning beneath the surface.
The Detroit-bred singer's father, a medic and erstwhile musician, left his family when Seger was just a boy. It was -- and remains -- the pivotal event in Seger's life. For years, the loss fueled Seger's musical aspirations and steeled his determination to succeed. In more recent years, it has defined his fierce dedication to his wife and two children.
Now 61, Seger stepped away from the music business a decade ago to raise his young family -- but it's also his family that brought him back out of retirement.
Seger and his Silver Bullet Band arrive in Memphis tonight for the final concert ever at The Pyramid. This past fall, Seger released his 16th album and first in 11 years, Face the Promise. Both the album and the tour have been an unqualified success, and for Seger they represent a chance at a kind of personal valediction before he "rides off into the sunset for good."
In 1987, after 20-plus years of constant work, Seger began to slow the frenetic pace of his career, following the release of Like a Rock and his marriage to his second wife, Nita Sinclair. Although he would record two more albums in the early '90s, he became a father for the first time at 47, with the birth of his son, Cole, and later a daughter, Samantha. After a tour in 1996 he decided to give up the road and the music business to focus on his children. "I really felt like this is the only chance for me to watch them grow up," says Seger, by phone from his Detroit offices.
During that time, Seger wrote songs in solitude and occasionally indulged his passion for sailboat racing -- even as his hometown of Detroit became the focus of the music world with the rise of Kid Rock, Eminem and the White Stripes. But it wasn't until Seger's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 that he seriously felt the tug of the stage again. His return, he says, was largely initiated by his children.
"My kids, they'd heard for years 'Oh, Dad plays music -- that's what he does, or that's what he did.' But it didn't really register with them," says Seger. "When they saw me at the Hall of Fame, they got really excited about wanting me to play again, and that got me excited about it, so I decided to go ahead and tour."
For Seger, a comeback would've been incomplete without a return to the studio as well. His last album, 1995's lyrically strident departure It's a Mystery, was a creative and commercial disappointment -- it became his first album since 1976 that failed to crack the top 10. "I went in a strange direction on that one, but I don't regret doing it," he says. "You gotta learn from your failures."
Seger recorded the bulk of Face the Promise with longtime engineer David Cole in 2004-2005 at Nashville's Ocean Way studios. Credited as a Bob Seger solo album -- his first sans the Silver Bullet Band in 30 years -- he cut the disc with a cast of Music City veterans and engaged in duets with country star Patty Loveless and longtime admirer Kid Rock. It's a cohesive song cycle that touches on the big themes of growing up and growing old, youthful aspirations and autumnal reflections. There's a personal language to many of the songs, understandable given that Seger intended the album "as a statement or message to my kids."
Buoyed by positive reviews and strong airplay, the album was certified platinum last month, a fairly remarkable achievement for an artist considered past his commercial prime.
Seger's rededication to his songwriting on Promise mirrors a similar approach he took with his first creative turning point, 1975's Beautiful Loser. "That record really marked a change in my approach. It was kind of inspired by Glenn Frey of the Eagles. He was a boyhood friend and when I saw him make it big with his songs, I realized I had to take time and work on my writing," says Seger. "Up until that point, I'd been on tour all the time."
Indeed, for a decade starting in the mid '60s, Seger had all but lived on the road. Leading various outfits including the Last Herd, the Bob Seger System and later the Silver Bullet Band (which he formed in 1974) he played upward of 250 shows a year, grinding out one-nighters on the club circuit. His first seven LPs barely scraped the lower reaches of the charts, and by the mid-'70s Seger was seen as little more than a hard-working journeyman within the industry.
Despite the disappointments, Seger and the band remained determined. "We knew we had talent; it was just a process of finding out what we did best on record."
What they did best on record, it turned out, was to play live. Seger and company released their seminal concert collection Live Bullet in 1976. The LP jump-started his career, going platinum and setting up a studio follow-up, Night Moves, which also crossed the million sales mark. That combination spawned a streak of 11 straight platinum albums, more than 50 million in total sales and a succession of era-defining chart singles.
And yet, Seger's vaunted reputation as a live performer and his ubiquitous string of rock radio hits have tended to obscure his exemplary work as a songwriter.
"Maybe because of all the songs of mine on the radio, [critics] don't dig deep enough to hear things like 'Fire Down Below' or 'Feel Like a Number' or some of the things that really weren't hits. Or maybe they were just turned off by the hits. That can happen -- especially when you make hits that are so, so ... obnoxious," says Seger, laughing heartily.
Unlike his more critically revered '70s rock counterpart Bruce Springsteen -- who is currently enjoying a renaissance thanks to the praise of trendy bands like the Killers and the Hold Steady -- Seger's music has remained decidedly unhip. Yet even amid the cars, girls and Saturday-night subject matter, Seger managed to infuse his tales with meaning and pathos. Has anyone ever bestowed such grace and grandeur on backseat fumblings as Seger did in "Night Moves," or instinctively grasped the spiritual dilemmas of blue-collar existence the way he did on "Feels Like a Number"?
Perhaps another, more significant, reason why Seger's work hasn't been afforded a serious critical reappraisal is that much of his early catalog -- in fact nearly all of his pre-1976 output -- has never been released on CD or is long out of print.
Seger says the lack of reissues is due to his own reluctance. "Truth is, I wouldn't want to put some of that stuff out in the sonic state it's in now," he says. "But whenever I think about working on some of those records, I realize I gotta commit two or three months to re-mixing it and mastering it and all that stuff. And I just would much rather spend that time writing something new."
For now, Seger's fans will gladly enjoy what he gives them -- namely his always engaging live show. On tour and backed by the Silver Bullet Band -- many of whom, including bassist Chris Campbell and saxophonist Alto Reed, have been with him for decades -- Seger has managed to maintain the quality of his sweat-soaked, epic-length performances well past middle age.
Seger gives The Pyramid a lasting one-more-time
Bob Seger's Saturday night concert at The Pyramid was a lesson in the art of mass appeal.
The Detroit-based singer has often said that he's the world's most unlikely rock star -- and the statement is more than simple self-effacement. Seger didn't look or dance any better than the 14,000-plus who packed the arena to see him perform, but removing the distance between the artist and the audience has always been his greatest talent.
It's that everyman quality that has accounted for Seger's enduring popularity over a five-decade career.
Clad in jeans and a T-shirt, the 61-year-old Seger made no concession to current trends or to his age -- save for taking a very brief intermission between a pair of lengthy sets.
Looking considerably grayer and a bit more paunchy than the last time he toured 11 years ago, Seger strode onstage as Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" blared over the P.A., then proceeded to stomp and sweat his way through a 21/2 -hour performance delivered with both a workmanlike dedication and genuine sense of enthusiasm.
Backed by a version of the Silver Bullet Band that numbered as many as 13 pieces -- including a horn section and troupe of backing vocalists -- Seger acknowledged The Pyramid's impending closure several times from the stage, but the show was less a memorial than a celebratory sendoff. A cleverly plotted set list helped, with the crowd reacting early and wildly to the familiar opening riffs of "Mainstreet" and "Old Time Rock & Roll."
Although a generally well-paced show, there were a few missteps along the way: A cover of Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" played more like karaoke while the highly anticipated return of "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" -- which Seger noted hadn't been played live in 26 years -- failed to match the rhythmic punch of the original.
But for every small miscue, there were several triumphs. The seamless segue between "Travelin' Man" and "Beautiful Loser" highlighted the melodic power of both songs, while a surprisingly evocative take on "We've Got Tonight" brought lighters and cell phones out en masse.
Although studded with most, if not quite all, of the expected hits, the set list also drew heavily from Seger's most recent album Face the Promise. Easily his most satisfying work since The Distance came out a quarter-century ago, the record distills the essence of Seger's signature blend of brawny R&B and windswept balladry.
The concert was highlighted by a forceful rendition of the album's title track (which draws thematic inspiration from Chuck Berry's "The Promised Land"), while the lush mid-tempo number "Wait For Me" fit nicely alongside similarly styled catalog classics "Roll Me Away" and "Against the Wind."
Seger's voice has weathered to a fine husk over the years, adding further gravitas to his nostalgic narratives. Yet, at other times, it was evident that he'd also lost some of his top range, as he was unable to deliver the dramatic vocal peaks in numbers like "Turn the Page" and "Fire Down Below."
Still, it's hard to be churlish when considering Seger's performance. As it is, his music's place in popular culture -- from Tom Cruise's famous lip synch in the film Risky Business to the pervasive Chevy Truck ads -- has obscured his greater work as a songwriter.
Oh! My! God!
That's what I said as soon as I found my seat at Memphis' Pyramid Saturday night. My tickets were three rows from stage right (Bob's right) with absolutely nothing obstructing my view. I couldn't have asked for a better seat.
And I couldn't have imagined a better show.
I didn't know it at the time I bought my tickets, but the Seger show was the last gig at The Pyramid.
But Bob knew it.
"I can't believe they're closing this down. I love this place!" Seger said in the second half of the show.
I had heard comments from people in Memphis that the sound at the Pyramid isn't good, blah, blah, blah. I ask them, "Have you EVER been to a concert in a giant arena that has great sound? I haven't, and I can't believe it would be much better at the new Fed Ex Forum. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal had a good front page story on the Pyramid's closure, and the writer rightly pronounced that if the Pyramid had to end its run, Seger's show was just the ticket.
For my money, it was better than Nashville.
Maybe it was because I hadn't seen him live since The Distance tour in Baton Rouge, and when he finally appeared before me again after 20-some years, I was in some sort of shock. Really, the night was a blur. I was there. I know I was. I have the credit card bill to prove it. But it was rather like an out of body experience.
But Memphis. Oh Memphis was different. I knew what I was in for, and I really paid attention to so many details ... the band, the back-up singers, the main attraction. It was just awesome.
I'm sure you can imagine what the crowd did when he launched into "an old Memphis song." During that moment, I was not from south Mississippi, but from west Tennessee.
After about four or five songs into the show, Seger lapped up the wild screams and adulation from the audience. He laughed and said, "That's just a fifth of the show!"
I have a renewed sense of gratitude for the man. He has stamina; that's for sure.
The guy is relentless. Song after song after song, he just kept going. I, however, was spent. I told the people around me that I would be standing the whole time, and I did. Dancing, pumping fists, high-fiving the guys around me. We had a blast, singing along to every single song. I was proud to know the words to all the new stuff too, and I'm glad he includes his Face the Promise cuts.
Highlights, for me, were Roll Me Away, Ramblin Gamblin Man, Turn the Page (of course), Real Mean Bottle (it wasn't in the Nashville set) Katmandu and Wreck This Heart. He also added Fire Down Below. (My first name is Nancy, so I love the lyrics!)
The absolute best moment was Traveling Man/Beautiful Loser. I love how the first transitions to the second, and he sang much of Beautiful Loser right to us on our side of the stage. If that had been the end of the show, I would have left satisfied.
But there was so much more.
Seger's voice was better for this show. He seemed to have more energy, doing some jumps, which I didn't notice in December's concert.
It was brilliant.
I thought I'd get a chance to meet the band. When I checked into the hotel near the Pyramid, I heard a guy say, "I'm going to pick up the band." Outside, he and others were loading into a hotel van headed to the airport. I noticed they had Face the Promise passes, so I said hello and told them I was pumped for the show. They made small chit chat then left.
Then I was off to Beale Street for a little fun, and I didn't see the guys again.
Off the concert topic, I want to get something off my chest. I've been very patient with Rolling Stone magazine for a very long time. Been a subscriber for a many years. But, up till the latest issue, Seger may as well have been a rock and roll footnote. Every "Best Of" issue ... greatest songs, greatest albums, greatest whatever.... Seger is noticeably absent. For crying out loud!!!!!!!!!! It's a bummer when the guy's sold more than 50 million records, played thousands of shows and is known worldwide, but can't catch a mention in RS. It really chaps my ass. So, finally, they take notice and write a review of the show. Three and a half stars. Just like the album Face the Promise. Three and a half stars.
Seems like the writers that Seger looks up to the most ("I was reading in RS .... that Detroit audiences are the greatest rock and roll audiences in the world!") or his favorite review of the new record ("Seger fearlessly remains Seger.") have let him down. I guess they're too busy promoting the Yea Yea Yeahs, or Panic! At the Disco, or some other flash in the pan band that won't be around for the next 5 years, much less 30-plus. It really makes me mad, but I guess I'm just getting old. I used to pick up RS and look at the top 50 and actually recognize some of the albums and artists. Now, I'm lucky to be familiar with five or six, and I usually don't have a copy of any of them.
That's OK though. I don't need RS to tell me how great Bob Seger is. I have old albums (Wish I Had Back in 72) and CDs to get me through the trying times we live in. He hasn't forgotten rock and roll, and we'll never forget him. The sold out crowds are proof of that.
Went to the final Pyramid show! What a blast, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, and "The Girls" Rocked and Rolled All Night Long.. It was fantastic, I've seen him in Knoxville(Nov.), Nashville(Dec.), Auburn Hills(Dec. 30th), and Memphis(Feb. 3rd) and I have to say the Memphis show was the best may be cause I was finally on the floor! He sounded sooo good, the band was so tight it was like they never stopped touring.
He did change up the songs a little Sunspot Baby was in the first set and he did back to back on the new Face The Promise with "Don Brewer" singing backup on Real Mean Bottle, then having "Laura Creamer" backing up (Patty's) part on duet of Answer in The Question. What a great treat! Fire Down Below was a real crowd pleaser.
The only down turn was after 2 and a half hours it was over. Alto was rocking, so were the other horns. Moose had a bigger role then in the past and sure proved that he was down with it. Chris and Mark ROCKED! All I can say is The Pyramid got lucky with booking him as their last concert, I don't know if it was sold out but Bob and "The Boy's" sure did show Memphis the Birthplace of Rock and Roll how its done, and that Rock and Roll Will Never Forget, neither will I.
Right now I am trying to procure Lexington Kentucky tic's, would Love to be on the floor again but we'll see. By the way my M-rock's poster has been to all shows and at Knoxville I felt like Bob acknowledged it but know for sure at the end of the show in Memphis it seen by all a lot of smiles on stage, it will be with me in Lexington too! You know Nashville is the only place I have heard him play "Still The Same" and I do miss that in the set list but like before We Can't Have It All..Can We?
I've been visiting your website regularly for the past 7 or 8 years, so I probably should introduce myself one of these days!!!! First of all, thank you for all of your hard work. I have enjoyed the website very much. A little about me...I grew up in Cleveland, went to Miami University, and now I live in-between Dayton and Cincinnati...working in downtown Cincinnati. I becane a huge Seger fan in the early-to-mid 90's, when I was in high school (I'm 30 now). My dad was the rock critic for the Cleveland Press between 1964 and 1982, when the paper folded. He met Seger several times between 76 and 82 and said that he was one of the nicest/down to earth stars he ever interviewed.
I love just about everything that Seger's done since the Beautiful Loser album, except for most of the Like A Rock album (save title cut and American Storm) and It's a Mystery. I'm a huge fan of the new album as well as some of his real early stuff (ex. Ramblin Gamblin Man and Get Out of Denver). I saw him twice on the 96 tour (Cincinnati and Columbus) and four times so far on this tour (Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit #4, and Memphis). I'll see him in Columbus as well...and possibly at Joe Louis...if I can get tickets (which is probably unlikely!!). In order, the best shows out of the 4 that I've seen: 1. Cleveland, 2. Memphis, 3. Detroit, and 4. Cincinnati. The crowd in Cincy was great, but the acoustics were horrible.
Music is my passion, and I like to think that I have a pretty good ear. I personally think that Seger buries Springsteen as a song-writer because his lyrics are less cryptic, and his melodies are much easier on the ear. I've been banging this drum for years, but most people tend to disagree. I think that the recent Memphis review said it well, with the comments about Risky Business and Chevy commercials overshadowing his great songwriting. It's a shame too, because "Like a Rock" has some of the best lyrics I've ever heard...as does "Turn The Page," "Against The Wind," and "Feel Like a Number."
DALLAS -- While Bob Seger was performing Roll Me Away, the opening number of his concert Thursday night at American Airlines Center, he paced the stage, thrusting a fist in the air.
When the crowd on the right side of the stage reacted enthusiastically, Seger couldn't keep himself from breaking into a grin. Cleary, here's a man who loves his job and is glad to be doing it after a decade-long hiatus.
But then, Seger also looks like the type of guy who would just love to work on the car in his driveway on a Saturday morning. With his gray hair and beard, his glasses and his T-shirt and jeans outfits, he could have fit in with the crowd as easily as he prowled the stage. Rock stars don't get much less complicated than Seger, and that's a compliment; he might be the most unpretentious artist rock 'n' roll has ever produced.
And his show couldn't have been much more straightforward. Aside from a half-dozen or so new songs from his 2006 album Face the Promise, all of which fit in seamlessly with the older stuff, this was a grab bag of radio-friendly songs, and dang, he has a lot of 'em. It's probably easier to list what he didn't play in a roughly two-and-a-half hour show (omissions included Still the Same and Makin' Thunderbirds), but with the exception of a swinging cover of Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell, every song he pulled out of his hat was an instantly familiar Seger classic.
Often it was a little too familiar: I wish Seger had stretched a little more on war horses like Mainstreet and Night Moves, just to shake those frequently played songs up a bit, but the singing, swaying, chanting, bopping crowd didn't seem to mind.
And every now and then, Seger and the Silver Bullet Band -- an impressively tight group, especially considering that there were sometimes more than a dozen people on stage -- kicked it up a bit.
Old Time Rock and Roll, Sunspot Baby, Katmandu and Hollywood Nights rocked the house, but the best moment was the transition from Travelin' Man to Beautiful Loser, which kept building and building in intensity and then broke to a smooth climax, with strong work from drummer Don Brewer (of Grand Funk fame) and lead guitarist Mark Chatfield. Saxophonist Alto Reed, a longtime Seger sideman, also gave several numbers a big boost.
Sure, it was nothin' fancy, and it was a show light on surprises, save for the strength of the new material and of Seger's husky 61-year-old voice. But Seger has always been a meat-and-potatoes type of rocker, and he connects with his audience because he seems like he's never stopped becoming one of them. This is workingman's rock, and if it erases people's problems for a couple of hours or so, it doesn't need any embellishments.
All veteran rockers should follow Bob Seger's lead and take a rejuvenating 11-year [CENSORED -- Ed.]. Especially if they re-emerge as refreshed and ready to rock again as the Michigan singer-songwriter. Proof of his rebirth comes etched in his solid new CD, Face the Promise, and the dang near fantastic show he and his Silver Bullet Band put on Thursday night at American Airlines Center.
Bob Seger delivered a smooth, spectacular show Thursday at American Airlines Center.
Mr. Seger, a bit paunchier in the midsection and now sporting shorter hair and eyeglasses, performed with all the energy, excitement and joie de vivre of a kid during a candy-store shopping spree. Much the same can be said for the opening act, country singer-songwriter Steve Azar, who offered a lively, spirited 40-minute stint.
Throughout the almost two-hour performance before a packed house, Mr. Seger smiled, danced, punched the air, mingled with his 13 musicians and sang with roaring gusto. His voice seems untouched by time. It's still a strong, bluesy, heartland-rocking instrument that turned new songs and old into platform manifestos.
The gig featured some obvious tunes, a few album cuts and about half of the Face the Promise CD. He smartly launched into the recognizable cuts with verve, then introduced the Promise tracks so that the crowd never felt lost. He delivered a nice balance.
Highlights of the evening were plenty, from a slamming take on "Old Time Rock & Roll," clearly an anthem of a generation that made the audience go ape, to a still soulful and solemn "We've Got Tonight" that he sang while on the grand piano. The funky roots rocker "Simplicity" and the fist-pumping "Wreck This Heart," two from Promise, should convince folks to go out and get that disc.
Mr. Seger surprised with a few left-field numbers, such as "The Horizontal Bop" (now that was one rollicking little tune) and the rockabilly [Note: rockabilly?] "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight," both from 1980's Against the Wind.
I just got back from the Dallas show: I might write something more complete in the next day or so, but for now, a few thoughts, the first and foremost being that I was struck, over and over, by just how lucky we all are to see this man again. So many memories of growing up in Detroit came rushing up, so many thoughts about how Seger's music has been a constant companion, a constant balm for the soul, for all these years, and here we are again, he's given us this much of himself again, after all this time, and he still sounds great, he still delivers the goods, he still is one of us, a guy from our neck of the woods who worked and worked and worked to get what he got.
These days, integrity doesn't pay off as often as it should. Bob Seger is proof, if any is needed in these scary, jaded times, that it still does. In spades. A few more notes:
1. The crowd: Flat. The new songs were greeted with too much indifference, too many sheeple going to get a beer over and over. You know what? You waited 10 years -- get that fifth beer tomorrow, okay, Bubba? "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" didn't get the props it deserved, either.
2. Don Brewer sings "Real Mean Bottle" better than Kid Rock ever thought of. Even if his snare drums needs to be louder. As in much.
3. I am in love with Laura Creamer.
4. Steve Azar: Gotta go. Now.
5. "C'est La Vie" -- gotta go, too. Sorry. What a perfect place to drop "Shakedown" or, well, any number of songs SEGER WROTE into the set.
6. No "No More" sucks. Right song, right time. Needs to be played.
7. Ditto "No Matter Who You Are." As good a song and vocal performance as he's ever done -- he needs to make room for it.
8. Did I mention I'm in love with Laura Creamer?
9. "Travelin' Man/Beautiful Loser" about tore the roof off. Highlight of the night for me.
10. If you can't sing on key, don't sing along on "We've Got Tonight." K? K.
More thoughts on Dallas:
Having had a few days now to decompress from the Dallas show, I find that I am comparing this show to past Seger shows, and that it REALLY stands up. The fullness of representation of so much of his career, the quality of his voice -- even stronger, I thought, than on FTP -- and the tightness of the band; all this and more provided what I feel was actually a better show than in 1996.
Between this show and the high quality of FTP, I think that Seger, should he choose to, can produce another CD, maybe two, that stand alongside some of his best work. He's still got it -- all of it. Yeah, he's thicker around the middle (who the hell isn't?) but he never sounded winded, or unsure, even at the very end of the show, on Against the Wind and Rock 'n' Roll Never Forgets. And this show came, let's not forget, past the halfway point of a long tour.
The point is, if Seger chooses to bow out after the shows at the Joe in March, he's gone far, far beyond the call of duty as far as giving his fans a wonderful sign-off. If not, if he comes back in a few more years, I don't think we will have to worry about him ever just going through the paces.
Now, as always, God bless Bob Seger.
A few more notes on the show:
1. The intermission is TOO SHORT. Eight minutes? The result of this is that a WHOLE bunch of folks were still in the bathroom or the beer line when Simplicity opened the second set. A WHOLE bunch. Why not just make it 15 and give people more of a chance to get back to their seats? I love Simplicity, but a whole lot of folks simply weren't back to their seats and missed it entirely.
2. If I have one major criticism of the show, it's that the songs from FTP that he chose to play are not, in my opinion, truly representative of the overall tone and message of the CD. Sure, I am very happy he did so many -- I hate it when bands put out a new CD after a long time off and only play one or two songs from it; why bother? -- but I still feel that "No Matter Who You Are" and "No More" would have been better choices than "Real Mean Bottle" -- either one. And if he still wanted a fairly quick, punchy ROCK song in that slot, "Makin' Thunderbirds" would have also been an improvement.
3. The horns seemed to be mixed better as the show went on -- the first few numbers they were featured on they were just not present enough.
4. Seger's vocals should have been louder in the mix. Most of the time this was not a problem -- and you could hear he was definitely singing very well. But on some of the rock songs, such as RNRNF, they just didn't have all the presence and punch they could have.
5. I literally couldn't hear ANY organ on RGM -- it was all guitar. ALL guitar. And I had a good seat.
Despite his famous credo, Bob Seger forgot about rock 'n' roll after rock 'n' roll forgot about him. After selling tens of millions of records in the '70s and millions more in the '80s, his 1995 record It's a Mystery went piff. Rock's rules had changed, and Seger's earnest blue-collar anthems sounded quaint among glossier, snarkier fare.
Seger's successes -- not counting Old Time Rock & Roll, for which he turned down a songwriting credit -- had provided ample security, so he walked away and started a family.
Subsequent trends came and went, and sometime during the next 11 years, Seger's style of rock -- passionate and decidedly unglamorous -- started to sound enduring. Regular praise from next-gen Michigan rocker Kid Rock didn't hurt. Nor did the fact Seger never went out of vogue as a jukebox hero: The songs that sprung from his life in Michigan always sounded familiar and regionless in bars. Like Lynyrd Skynyrd, he was a rock act that country fans could get behind.
Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 gently nudged Seger back onstage. Last year he released Face the Promise, his first album in more than a decade. And after some hemming, hawing and anxiety, he lined up a tour that passes through the Toyota Center Monday. Notices suggest Seger's still a dynamic performer despite an absence of showman's props, costumes and dance moves.
Q: Early reports are that the shows are pretty energetic. How are you feeling?
A: The shows, in my opinion, are really going over well. They're really fun to do. We have a horn section on this tour. When I saw Bruce Springsteen on the Born in the U.S.A. tour, he had a big horn section. I guess I filed it in the back of my head. So, a week before we started, I hired a horn section. Now it's 14 people up there. It fits in perfect on Rock & Roll Never Forgets. Katmandu. Trying to Live My Life Without You.
Q: I've heard your kids were a reason you got back into the business.
A: Yes. When I went into the Hall of Fame in March 2004, they saw me play live and said, 'Dad we want to see a whole show.' On my last tour they were 1 and 3 1/2 . They'd heard about who I was when they went to school, but I thought I should show them who I was before I stopped doing this for good. But I got to watch my son play baseball, watch my daughter do gymnastics. I got to play golf and even got kind of good at it.
Q: You sound glad to have put off fatherhood until later in life.
A: I'd never even seen kids when I was 21 to 31, which is when I hit it big. After struggling 10 years and then touring so much, I'd never seen them at all. Didn't get around to kids until I was 47.
Q: Did you think you were comfortably retired?
A: Honestly, if you'd asked me four months ago would I go through with this, back when we were starting rehearsals, I'd have said no way.
Q: There's a sense of movement on the new album, which seems to make sense, since a lot of the old stuff is pretty restless, too.
A: Yeah, I wrote about being very young. Some of my best years were actually before I really worked for a living, doing 260 nights a year. You can hear that in Turn the Page.
Q: But there are also some topical songs.
A: When you have kids, you stop thinking about your own future and start thinking about theirs. I guess you start thinking about things like ecology, rampant, crazy consumerism. You want to sit them down and say, "You don't need that."
Q: I'm guessing you're not an American Idol viewer.
A: Never seen it. They just asked me that at Rolling Stone. No, I won't watch it. But my wife and daughter love it. they watch religiously. Kid Rock said they sound like Holiday Inn singers. The way you have to judge it is, will they have a 10-year career? I wonder.
Q: Is this the best job you've ever had?
A: Ohhhhh yeah. It's the only job I've ever had. I started singing songs at 10 with my dad's ukulele, singing Elvis songs. I started working when I was 16 in bars and frat parties around Ann Arbor. I think if I hadn't made it as a musician, I probably would've been a journalist.
Q: Do you still kick yourself for punting credit on Old Time Rock & Roll?
A: (Laughs.) How do you let that one go? Yeah, I wish I would've claimed some of that; I wrote the lyrics to that except for the title and chorus. I never asked for any credit. That was pretty dumb, right?
Q: Well, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems financially rash.
A: Yeah, it was just a rush-rush deal. We had to leave on a tour. They would've given the credit to me. But I had to finish the album fast. Shakedown was same thing, only I'd learned my lesson. I asked Harold Faltermeyer (who co-wrote the song) for a third.
Q: Are you a cocktail-napkin writer or a desk writer?
A: I sit at a desk. I'm sitting there right now. I have to go away from where I live and be in a different space. I need huge chunks of private time to do it right. There's a lot of staring off into the wall. As a songwriter, you're so limited in the format -- you have to rhyme things, you only get three to five minutes. It's such a tiny piece of paper to work with, and it's tough to come up with something you haven't done before.
Q: Do you remember the first record you bought with your own money?
A: (Laughs.) No. I really don't. The first single was Come Go With Me by the Del Vikings. Also Tutti Frutti by Little Richard. Smokey Robinson. I used to do Shop Around in bars. The girls liked his ballads, so I played lots of those.
A: No, I don't like the sound of MP3s. I still buy CDs.
Q: Will it be 12 years before you tour again?
There's no smoke at a Bob Seger concert. No dancers, no pyro, no costume changes, no rock 'n' roll excess, aside from the fact that, at times, 14 people can be spotted on stage. There's also no dark arrival, sending his band on stage first to work the crowd into a lather, before the preening frontman takes over.
Seger took the stage four times during his lengthy (but not too lengthy) show at the Toyota Center Monday night. Each of those four times, he was the first guy out, waving like a proud parent, not a rocker who owned the '70s.
That's Seger's charm. I've grumbled about and grappled with the subject of how rockers are supposed to age. Seger's a pretty good template.
Like Mick Jagger, he hasn't really changed what he does on stage from decades past. Unlike Mick Jagger, his wild youth wasn't spend doing funky rooster dances that are a silly fit on a man of 61. Sure, he can't leap around and fall to his knees like he did as a younger, wilder man, but his night moves were always fairly basic. Seger wore a plain black T-shirt, jeans and glasses. After opening with Roll Me Away, he donned a sweatband around his head for the duration of the show. Seger has always been one of rock's least image-conscious performers; why worry about such things now? And nobody cared. The crowd was more interested in the songs, performed live on his first tour in more than a decade.
Stuff from his new album Face the Promise, often an invitation to the restroom, went over just as well as the golden oldies. Wreck This Heart was strong as was Real Mean Bottle. And The Answer's in the Question, stripped down and acoustic, could've come from any of his classic records.
But, of course, the classics are why Seger plays the Toyota Center and not a small bar. Save the late-era hit The Fire Inside, the Dodge anthem Like a Rock and the soundtrack hit Shakedown, he pretty much played them all.
Seger was in fine voice throughout, though notably an octave lower on Old-Time Rock & Roll. Sequencing piano-centric We've Got Tonite and Turn the Page was inspired, as was saving his gentler, acoustic stuff (Against the Wind, Night Moves) for encores. Which isn't to say he went out quietly.
Veteran rocker Bob Seger brings the No. 1 concert tour in the U.S. to Alltel Arena on Saturday
It would be way too easy to say that rocker Bob Seger is "still the same." Even as you hum his hit of the same name -- "Still the Same" --Seger is no longer the same.
He's not the road warrior he once was, nor the hit-maker he was in the 1980s. But he's still able to deliver the goods -- if not night after night, at least he's out there night after every other night, he figures.
"My voice is holding up good," the affable Seger explains from the road. "I'm trying to pace it, so we do shows pretty much every other night, Tuesday through Saturday, as it works out. I went to a vocal doctor who said the best thing I could do is to fly home after a show. So I get in a car, go to where the plane is parked and head on home, and don't even murmur until waking up the next morning.
"At my age, it's crucial to have the discipline to do that, and it's a thing that shows respect for my next audience coming up. It's worked out great for me, even if it is boring for a 'rock star.'"
Seger, who first toured in 1966, knows a thing or two about the rock star life. He also knows a bit about how to gracefully leave it behind in pursuit of other things. Becoming a father at an advanced age -- he'll be 62 on May 6 -- led to his decision to quit touring 11 years ago. His kids, Cole, 13, and Samantha, 11, were the reasons for the leaving and the returning.
His kids had heard about their father being a rock star, but in 2004, they saw him in action when he sang a couple of songs at the ceremonies where he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Kid Rock doing the honors, calling Seger "the most underrated singer/songwriter of our time." In 2006, Seger's children saw him perform again, when he sang "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" at a Kid Rock gig in Detroit, the hometown of Seger and Kid Rock.
"My kids then decided it was time I did some road work again," Seger laughs in his deep-throated cackle. "And the road had always called out to my fans, but less so to me. I had gotten pretty tight with my family and was pretty happy doing that. I would still go over and put in my five hours a day writing. I have a cabin in 60 acres of woods. Well, it's a barn with a large room above it that I've had for about 10 years. It's about 12 miles from our house, so I can get some work done when I'm there.
"Sometimes I'd think maybe I should find a hobby, and I'd think about writing stories. I did that some in the mid-'80s when I spent a month with Don Henley in Aspen. I ended up throwing all that stuff away, but it was fun to do.
"But all these years I was writing music for myself. From the time of my last album, It's a Mystery, in '95, I never stopped writing songs. And last year, I decided it was time to do another."
The resulting album, Face the Promise, was recorded in Nashville, Tenn., and featured a guest appearance by singer Patty Loveless. The album contains one cover song, a version of Vince Gill's "Real Mean Bottle," sung as a duet with Kid Rock, who has long considered Seger a mentor and road-running role model. The album also takes on some of the concerns Seger has developed.
"No More" examines the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, while "The Long Goodbye" is about Alzheimer's disease and "Between" was inspired when Seger took his children to see Al Gore's environmental film, An Inconvenient Truth. Consumerism and its rampant effects on American life are the subject of "Are You."
The new CD debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart -- his highest debut ever -- and inspired a recent CBS News Sunday Morning feature on Seger's life and times, on which he explained that his early inspiration came from his autoworker father whose real love was music.
In his early days, Seger was doing 250 club dates a year, he told interviewer Russ Mitchell as they toured Seger's barn, filled with cars and boats on its ground level.
"After 'Night Moves'  we went from station wagons to jets," Seger said in the report. Jeff Daniels, an actor who also grew up in Michigan, praised Seger for never having 'gone Hollywood,' to which Seger explained, "I told the truth ... I didn't sugarcoat things."
Those who grew up in central Arkansas may recall having seen more than one Seger show at Barton Coliseum in the late 1970s and early '80s.
Seger was frequently called the Midwestern Bruce Springsteen for the power of his shows and the storytelling abilities of the man who was considered a bluecollar hero, by virtue of his "Motor City" background.
The hits, as they say, just kept coming, and they took on a new sheen when the underwear-clad Tom Cruise did his lip-synched version of Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" in the movie Risky Business.
Backed by a 13-piece band -- including a horn section, several of his old Silver Bullet band mates and Don Brewer, the drummer in Grand Funk Railroad -- Seger has quite a catalog of songs to pick from, and more hits than most musicians his age. Fans are showing up to see if he can still deliver the goods; Pollstar, a concert industry trade publication, has ranked Seger's tour No. 1 since late January, ahead of The Who, Aerosmith, The Dixie Chicks and other stalwarts such as Bob Dylan, Guns N' Roses and the Def Leppard/Journey combination.
Seger says part of the reason he's back on the road is for instructional purposes, to show his kids that the life of a musician is not all fun and games and counting the night's proceeds.
"I want to show them how difficult it is," Seger confesses. "And how much of a commitment it takes. They've been seeing it firsthand and really good. That's a big reason why I'm doing it, so they could see the whole process, from when we made the record and rehearsed for the tour."
Bob Seger could have passed for a quiet bookkeeper or the bespectacled history professor whose stories are good enough to make you want to read his assignments.
But the 61-year-old Seger proved that age is no obstacle to providing an energetic rock show. Still the same? Grayer, but still as good.
Starting off with "Roll Me Away," Seger became more than a simply-clad singer in a black Tshirt and blue jeans whose movements were just as believable, if not as wildly theatrical and almost cartoonish, as those of Mick Jagger, who cavorted on this stage 11 months ago. Thunderous bass lines, two drum sets and a huge bass saxophone competed for the crowd's attention, and made clear early on that excellent sound and a devoted technical crew would mean no need to hurriedly search for ear plugs - this was a concert to be enjoyed painlessly.
The roar of the band was matched by the thunderous applause of adoring fans at the soldout show of 14,141 Saturday at Alltel Arena. Seger barreled into " Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" as if he meant it for an early Valentine's Day treat for the crowd, and the band's great horn section's soulful wail made the song sound like something Otis Redding could have recorded.
New songs from Face the Promise, Seger's 2006 release, were mixed in with familiar hits: the new "Wreck This Heart," "Mainstreet," "Old Time Rock & Roll," the new "Wait for Me," the title cut from Face the Promise, "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight," "We've Got Tonight," "Turn the Page," "Beautiful Loser," the new "Simplicity," "Ramblin', Gamblin' Man," "C'est La Vie," the new "Real Mean Bottle" and "The Answer's in the Question," "The Fire Down Below," "Horizontal Bop," "Katmandu," "Night Moves," "Hollywood Nights," "Against the Wind" and finally, "Rock and Roll Never Forgets."
At times, you could look around the arena and see a mix of two technologies held aloft: the lighted cell phone cameras of modern times and the old-style lighter (and judging from the haze inside and on the concourse, lighters had been used for more than just saluting Seger). With no smoke machines on stage, it was hard to think the haze was anything but scofflaw smokers.
Subtracting a nine-minute intermission, Seger gave the adoring throng a two-hour show and never looked winded. He looked and acted like an unreformed rocker who had missed the road and was out to make up for lost time. He was backed by musicians of unquestioned talent, especially saxophonist Alto Reed and lead guitarist Mark Chatfield, who were attuned to each other's moves.
Reed is an old hand at playing with Seger, as are bassist Chris Campbell, drummer Don Brewer, keyboardist Craig Frost and backing vocalists and percussionists Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy. The band's other members are John Rutherford, Mark Byerly, Robert Jensen and Keith Kaminski, collectively known as The Motor City Horns, plus backing vocalist/percussionist Barbara Payton and rhythm guitarist Jim "Moose" Brown, a native of Nettleton, near Jonesboro.
Opening act Steve Azar and
band blazed through a good, if brief set, full of energy and
vigor. Azar, a lifelong fan of Seger, was overjoyed to be
playing as Seger's opening act and in front of Azar's Conway
native wife and her family, he said. High points of his set
were "Waitin' on Joe" and "I Don't Have To Be Me ('Til
Monday)," a song with sentiments that were likely shared by
fans who turned out for a long-delayed shot of Seger's
Yes, Bob Seger has a MySpace page. But does the old-time rock 'n' roller ever update it - let alone look at it?
"I let everybody else take care of that for me," Seger said recently in a telephone interview. "And being such a micromanager, I'm surprised I even give up that control."
Even in 2007, Bob Seger still lives by his own rules.
In a time when record company profits are plummeting and artists are relying on cross-platform exposure in the face of smaller budgets and fickle fans, Seger remains vintage Seger.
Seger, 61, took nearly a dozen years away from recording to watch his kids grow up. Then, without much fanfare, Seger released "Face the Promise," his first full-length CD in more than 10 years, in September.
Seger announced his current tour, which brings him to the Pepsi Center on Wednesday, on "The Late Show with David Letterman" in late 2006. In Seger's 45-year career, it was only his third time performing on television, a medium he has avoided.
Seger has played 33 shows already on the first leg of his comeback tour, and after every show but one, he has taken his plane back home to Detroit - where he sleeps next to his wife, wakes up to his children's voices and rests his voice for the next show.
Seger, ever since he broke in the mid-'70s, has toured only by private jet.
"It's just the way I like to do things," Seger said.
It's not surprising that Seger is still jacking the industry norms and dodging the trend. He has always blazed his own path.
Remember that the Detroit rocker is one of the few artists in the history of rock 'n' roll to break out of obscurity with a live album, 1976's "Live Bullet." And not many people realized that Seger has never toured by bus. He and the Silver Bullet Band went straight from touring out of station wagons from 1965-1975 to private jets.
"We were poverty-stricken the first 10 years of our careers," Seger recalled, "but after 'Night Moves' and 'Live Bullets' we just skipped a step."
Seger paid his dues. His touring slate for the 10 years preceding his band's break-out is legendary, especially in the Midwest. He developed such a following that he could sell out Detroit's Cobo Arena, but when it came to gigging cities like Denver, he failed to even sell out the tiny rock club Ebbets Field. It was this kind of nationwide apathy that led Seger to "Get Out of Denver," as the song goes, and write his own rules along the way.
"You couldn't work 250 nights a year and not keep coming back to the same places to play to audiences that kept getting bigger and bigger," Seger said. "There was a reason we were able to work that many nights every year. We were a successful live act, but we just weren't recognized by the record companies."
Seger signed to Capitol Records in 1968 for his project The Bob Seger System, which produced the single "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." But he later took some time off before forming the Silver Bullet Band in '74. And the hits came quickly. "Turn the Page" came from "Live Bullet," and the title track from "Night Moves" helped the great Seger assault of 1976.
Later he would write songs with The Eagles, including the No.1 "Heartache Tonight," and contribute his own "Like a Rock" to one of the longest-running automobile ad campaigns in television history. The Chevy trucks ad campaign was an unexpected move for the TV-shy Seger - until it was announced that he was licensing the song to the American automobile manufacturer in support of his hometown's struggling industry and workforce.
Seger's popularity waned in the late '80s and '90s, with his records selling only 1 million copies as opposed to the 3, 4 or 5 million he had grown accustomed to. A turning point came in 1995 when his "It's a Mystery" became his first album since "Live Bullet" to not sell a million records - something many critics attributed to the fact that Seger was becoming an anachronism amid the MTV generation.
Some of this was planned. Seger has been together with his third wife, Nita, since 1989, and they made a conscious effort to be present parents. When Seger last toured, his kids were 1 and 3 1/2.
"Now that I'm touring again, they're 11 and 14, and I've just been watching them grow up - I've actually had the luxury of doing that," said Seger, noting that he continued to write songs while they were in school, many of which ended up on the recent "Face the Promise."
"I would take my daughter to gymnastics and watch my son run cross country. I'd take them to plays and things of that nature and help them with their homework, he said. "If I'd had them when I was 27, I would have never seen them, or even 37. So I'm glad that it happened when it did."
Most musicians never take a 10-year break from touring, but the time off has treated Seger and his band well.
Bob Seger wrote a song called Face the Promise and knew a few things right away.
He knew it would be a blast to play live. He knew his old fans would like it. He knew it would be the title track of his new album. He knew he'd go out on a big tour with it.
What he didn't know is that it would take most of a decade to accomplish all that.
"It was our starting point. I said: 'I've got a great live song here. This is going to be really fun for the band to play.' Wrote it a long time ago, around '98 or '97," Seger said. "Didn't record it till '99 or something like that.
"I just knew it was going to be good, a real fun song to play live. The gals I've been singing with forever, Laura (Creamer) and Shaun (Murphy), are just going to kill it."
During a recent phone call from his home in Michigan, Seger laughed heartily and often during an interview, deep into his first tour in a decade, which hits the Pepsi Center on Wednesday.
Face the Promise is old-school: 12 tight songs, 43 minutes of music, filled with classic Seger themes and tunes. Short is better, Seger said.
"You get too long-winded," he said, noting that he has turned a critical eye even on his older material. "We started playing Fire Down Below in Boston. We're doing a short version of it. We're not even doing the guitar solo and the double bridge. We just skinned it back a little bit. We did that with We've Got Tonight, too. We don't do the three choruses in a row. We're scaling everything back. You get the song, you get everything it says, but we're cutting out the fat, as it were."
It's a discipline other musicians could follow, given the sheer number of bloated 78-minute CDs out there.
"If I can take a little bit out, I do. Sometimes it's a little painful, but in the final analysis it's correct. I have another verse in the Patty Loveless song (The Answer's in the Question, from the new album). There were four more lines. I looked at the four lines and said, 'I'm not saying anything new in these lines.' It was painful, but it was the right thing to do."
The new album
Face the Promise is a song about believing in something in a time when people seem to have a lack of faith. In Seger's rural corner of the world, parents are watching kids take off for the big city.
"They're having trouble keeping their kids home," Seger said. "(It's all about) making it, breaking it in the big city, as it were. Are you ready to go out? It sets the stage for the rest of the record. Some of the other stuff on the record deals with what to expect when you get there."
Another cornerstone of the record is the one-two punch of Real Mean Bottle (an alcohol-fueled tribute to Merle Haggard written by Vince Gill) immediately followed by Won't Stop, a somber warning of addiction reminiscent of Seger's Still the Same, another song of dire warnings.
"I felt I needed that to level Real Mean Bottle, which is levity about addiction and drinking and being crazy. I need something to balance it, which is why I put (Won't Stop) right after that song. (Real Mean Bottle) is the perceived party-till-you-drop song; then the next song is the reality of what happens if you do that, the addictive compulsive personality that goes along with that.
"We all have friends who get off on the wrong foot, head out in the wrong direction and lose themselves to drugs and drinking and stuff like that. It's kinda about people I know who have done that, gone down that way. You end up not taking their calls anymore, you know what I mean? You just can't deal with it anymore. We've all been through that. It's a cautionary tale. This stuff comes into my mind because of my kids. You have to have answers for all that stuff."
The antiwar song No More makes it clear where Seger stands politically. He started with just the line "I don't want this."
"That's all I had. I had no idea what I didn't want anymore. It took me about a day to figure it out. 'Oh, I know something I don't want anymore - this war.' We went full hog on it.
"You just get the feeling: Enough's enough. It was a mistake and it's really going to be bad when we leave. What's the difference if we go now or later? For a while I thought maybe I shouldn't put it on the record. But in the final analysis, everyone loved the song. If the (Dixie) Chicks were brave enough to stand up, I'll do it, too."
The recording gap
"As you get older, you just take more time. I've always probably taken too much time in the studio. Bruce (Springsteen) is like that. He's in there a long time. Whereas Bob Dylan is in there for two seconds; that's the way he is. So the studio can be arduous. I really tried this time with this record to (use) early takes. We didn't do more than eight or nine takes on any song. You can get studio-blind sometimes, get bored in there and start speeding it up. You get home and go, 'Oh man, I wrecked the song.' "
Recording with Patty Loveless
"I'm a huge fan. I've been with her since album one. The voice just killed me and the commitment and the rootsy-ness. I really love the way she and her husband, Emory, picked out great songs. Some of the singles aren't so great, but the depth inside the albums - it's just great, great stuff."
On his voice
"I've kept my voice in really good shape. I've made it a religious fervor. Right at the beginning of the tour, I told this vocal doctor what I was going to do. He said it was the greatest idea he'd ever heard. Get off the stage, get in a car, go to an airport and fly home after every show. . . . Don't speak until the next morning. (Other singers) all go out and revel in it afterward and they wreck their voices. I've finally gotten smart about that sort of stuff."
On his legacy
Bob Seger performs Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center. Seger and the Silver Bullet Band played several encores from the packed crowd. (Post / John Leyba)
Fresh off a break of more than 10 years from the stage, veteran rocker Bob Seger - a guy who has, for decades, embodied the spirit of hardworking, no-nonsense, middle-class rock 'n' roll - amply demonstrated that 61-year-old dudes can, and do, keep rocking.
Seger and the Silver Bullet Band thrilled a comfortably packed crowd at the Pepsi Center Wednesday evening.
They offered up loads of Michigan-born heart and soul with a set that transcended many, many years of hits.
The recent years that Seger chose to spend with his children after a long career as one of America's most iconic rockers apparently helped preserve that distinctive, nicotine-flavored voice and left him with a whole lot of energy and enthusiasm to spare.
Dressed in a black T-shirt and pants at the outset - finished off with a trademark headband - the bespectacled, stocky rocker traveled across a long catalog of material that ranged from the expected classics ("Old Time Rock 'n' Roll," "Night Moves," "Hollywood Nights" and "We've Got Tonight") to a sizable chunk of songs pulled from his new CD, "Face the Promise."
The resulting mix was admittedly up-and-down during the first set, as fans jumped to their feet to support fist-pumping pieces such as "Roll Me Away," only to quietly settle down for Seger's new material.
But the variety made for a nice night, with the gravelly voiced rocker turning up the mood on a sensitive rendition of "We've Got Tonight" and an especially growly "Turn the Page."
Decades of smoking really will take a toll on the voice box. Luckily for Seger, the effect is still as cool and crunchy as it was in the 1970s.
What the evening lacked in pyrotechnics and flash, it made up for in sheer numbers.
Backed by as many as 13 players (including the sexy trio of veteran vocalists Laura Creamer, Shaun Murphy and Barbara Payton, plus the smooth-sounding Motor City Horns), Seger was never lonely.
And the long-established chops of the Silver Bullet Band kept things vital and vibrant.
Alto Reed, hoisting a saxophone the size of a vacuum cleaner at various points, was a definite crowd favorite.
The words "here's a song from the new album" are usually the kiss of death at a classic rock concert.
But when Bob Seger uttered those words introducing Wreck This Heart, fans actually cheered with recognition - and the title track of his new Face the Promise album had even the uninitiated captivated.
That album is full of classic Seger sounds and moments, like he hadn't taken a 10-year break from music. His show Wednesday night gave you the same feeling. With a skilled mix of old and new, familiar and obscure, Seger rocked the filled-to-the- rafters Pepsi Center surprisingly hard.
As Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town blared through the loudspeakers, Seger and band hit the sparse stage for two sets of rollicking songs.
The Silver Bullet Band is a compilation these days, with stalwarts such as sax player Alto Reed still in place, but also with interesting twists - Grand Funk Railroad's Don Brewer on drums? Wow.
Seger's catalog is so deep that staples of his career - notably Still the Same and Like a Rock - aren't in the set list.
Opening with a sweeping Roll Me Away, Seger explored some of the more interesting corners of his career - Sunspot Baby along with a nice one-two of Travelin' Man leading into Beautiful Loser to close out the first set.
The big hits were there - We've Got Tonight, Old Time Rock 'n' Roll - but the crowd ate up everything. Turn the Page, a song I'd long considered something of a lesser Seger hit, had the entire crowd singing every last word and cheering each Reed sax break.
"Well, we gotta do this one," Seger said with Get Out of Denver, an extreme rarity on this tour. He played it, Seger said, because "I mean, it's the law."
Old hard rockers were the hallmark of the night - Katmandu, Bettie Lou's Getting Out Tonight, Rambling Gambling Man and just plenty of old-school Seger.
Complaints? Seger's voice was buried in the mix a bit, and an arena show these days really demands a big screen. He might not have the manic stage energy of the first time I saw him back in 1980, but then again neither do I.
But to come back after a 10-year break with a strong album, full arenas and two hours of straight-up rock can only be called a triumph.
At press time, Seger was into his encores, which on previous stops included Against the Wind and Rock 'n' Roll Never Forgets.
Bob Seger may be older now, but it sure didn't seem like he was running against any wind Wednesday night at Pepsi Center as he gave a flawless performance before an almost sold out older crowd.
The audience, filled with bikers and businessmen alike, ate up every second of Seger's almost two and a half hour performance.
One fan put it best:
"It was like he went from being off the map to right back on the map," said Gary Province.
For his first concert tour since 1996, it was incredible how tight he and his 13 fellow musicians sounded that make up The Silver Bullet Band.
From his opening with "Roll Me Away," to a double encore for a total of four songs including, "Night Moves," "Hollywood Nights," "Against the Wind," and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," Seger and the Silver Bullet's were incredible.
Being Valentine's Day, couples were reveling in the moment, singing to each other, hugging and kissing.
Seger may be 61-years-old, but he knew how to shake it, and work his audience -- ladies especially.
Dressed in tight black jeans, a black T-shirt and black cowboy boots to match, Seger ran from side-to-side, covering the entire stage and stopping often to throw his hands up into the air, and shout out to his audience.
Just looking at the stage alone was impressive, with three ladies at background vocals, a bassist, keys player, drummer, and two guitarists. Of course long-time saxist, Alto Reed, joined in with Seger often, helping to belt out those classic Silver Bullet tunes.
Like "Mainstreet," performed by Reed with a prolific opening sax wail that had everyone in the audience screaming to the rafters.
Seger was sure to feature a few tunes off of his latest 2006 release, "Face the Promise."
The crowd sat for these, including "Wreck This Heart," "Wait for Me," "Simplicity," and "The Answer's in the Question," but Seger knew they were just saving their energy for his classic hits.
Considering the blistering version of "The Fire Down Below," that followed, "The Answer's in the Question," it was good the crowd saved their energy.
"We've Got Tonight"
But there was still plenty of time for couples to stop dancing, embrace each other, and swing on this Valentine's Day.
As Seger sat at the piano and sang, "We've Got Tonight," there was plenty a glance of love throughout Pepsi Center.
After perfect performances of "Turn the Page," "Old Time Rock & Roll," "Beautiful Loser," and Chuck Berry's, "C'Est la Vie (You Never Can Tell)," Seger had his audience stunned, he sure didn't act 61.
"Get Out Of Denver"
There was one tune, however, that Mr. Seger "had to play" for his Denver audience. Of course that was, "Get Out Of Denver."
But none of us wanted him to leave.
He is a legend, and Denver was blessed to have Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band roll through town.
"Mainstreet," on the 1976 classic Bob Seger "Night Moves" album, isn't really about Main Street. It's about Ann Street, in Ann Arbor, Mich., where Bob Seger and I were born.
That's all we have in common, though no fewer than three people I went to school with claimed their mothers dated Seger, which is an odd thing to brag about.
He is a local hero, the voice blasted from cars in summer, a voice that has always sounded like the leaves changing in the fall (if leaves could sing and had a whiskey and five-pack habit). Yet, despite its likely being mandated in the state constitution, I'd never seen Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band -- until he strolled out onto the Rose Garden stage Saturday night wearing jeans and a black T-shirt, smiling, unassuming.
"Hey," he said.
He spent the next two-plus hours spanning five decades with 25 songs, reminding why he's much more than a local Michigan hero. The guy carries legend status for a reason. "Has it really been 32 years since 'Live Bullet'?" Seger said after "Turn the Page," referencing his breakthrough live record recorded in Detroit.
It has, and 11 years since Seger last toured, 12 years since his last record. More than a decade of taking care of kids, taking out trash, doing normal-guy stuff. Until, last fall, when he released "Face the Promise," and hit the road.
Even in his 20s, Seger was writing songs a 61-year-old man could sing. They look either wistfully back, or forward, across plains and opportunity. His is a windy world, blowing in storms and resistance. That Midwestern work ethic is a requirement, too. When he's in the moment, that moment is almost always rollicking, and if, at 61, "Old Time Rock and Roll" has been kicked down a register or two, well, Tom Cruise doesn't look the same anymore in his underwear, either.
It's still the iconic voice that's busted out of so many jukeboxes for so long. And if the main criticism of Seger is that he's never quite been Springsteen, the Silver Bullets not quite E-Street, then let it be noted there's no shame in that.
Saturday night, Seger offered simple images, simple themes, simply a good time. There's truth in simplicity, comfort in familiarity. He beamed, punched triumphantly at the air. The crowd roared.
So, Bob Seger, where the heck have you been?
"HA-HA-HA-HA" (Seger's laugh is big and loud). "Took time off to be a dad, man!" the rock legend shouts over the phone from a tour stop in Texas.
Seger, 61, hadn't been on the road or made an album in more than a decade when, last fall, he released "Face the Promise" and launched a tour. Both have been big hits, especially the tour, which has been selling out across the country.
"I had my kids really late in life, and I just didn't want to not be there," he explained about his long hiatus. "It's not like I'm not well-off or anything and can't do it, so I had no excuse."
Seger's kids are 11 and 14, so he was home for most of their childhoods.
"They're really well-adjusted kids," he said proudly. "They're both around 3.5 GPAs. But it's middle school for them and, boy, those middle-school kids can be mean and tough. And, of course, their dad is who he is, so they're targets a little bit, too. So I gotta be there for that."
Seger may have been gone awhile, but his muscular, blue-collar rock never left. Classic-rock radio continues to play his classics, like "Night Moves," "Still the Same" and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets."
And then there were those Chevy truck commercials on TV, which for years used "Like a Rock."
"We put that away!" Seger yells at the mention of the ad. "It's been heard enough! HA-HA-HA-HA!
"But, you know, that record wasn't a hit. I think it made it to like 35 or 38 on the chart. [Note: "Like A Rock" charted at #12 on Billboard.] So when they came to me for that song I said, 'Yeah, I want people to hear this song.' It was for that and a myriad other reasons that I did the commercial. But I'm glad it was that song they picked."
"Face the Promise" may have been long in coming, but it fits right in with his previous albums, the first of which was released 40 years ago. Seger said he and his Silver Bullet Band have been doing up to eight of the new songs in their 2 1Ú2-hour set.
With so many albums to draw from, Seger has been changing the set list regularly.
"We're doing 'Ramblin' Gamblin' Man' for the first time in 26 years on this tour," he said. "We're fooling around with 'Feel Like A Number' right now. We haven't played it yet, but we're gonna get that in shortly. We just added 'Fire Down Below' and we hadn't done that for 30 shows. There's a lot to choose from!"
One cut from the new album that's particularly timely is "No More," an anti-Iraq-war song.
Embracing the passage of time rather than pretending to be forever young, the 61-year-old Detroit legend known for such songs as "Hollywood Nights" and "Against the Wind" rocked a near-capacity crowd at KeyArena with the songs that made him a rock 'n' roll institution.
He also offered a sampling of songs from his new album, "Face the Promise," among them "Wreck This Heart," "Simplicity" and the tender ballad "Wait for Me." The new songs compared favorably to his classic tunes.
The boisterous show -- opened by Tennessee rocker Steve Azar and his band -- drew a near-capacity crowd spanning several generations but dominated by baby boomers. After the concert, Queen Anne Avenue was choked with rented stretch limos, indicating the event had been a special occasion for many concertgoers who had perhaps taken their cue from the line about "the rich man in his big long limousine" in "Fire Down Below."
Seger's current tour is his first in 10 years. During his last tour in 1996, Seger also performed at KeyArena, shortly after the former Seattle Center Coliseum reopened with great promise. The April show was the first big rock concert at the renovated facility.
Backing Seger on Thursday night was his long-running Silver Bullet Band, featuring Chris Campbell on bass, Craig Frost on keyboards, Mark Chatfield on lead guitar, Jim "Moose" Brown on guitar and keyboard, and the popular Alto Reed on saxophones. Reed, who moved about the stage more than anyone (he was especially animated during "Horizontal Bop") played a giant bass sax that was quite an eye-catcher.
Seger's entourage of more than a dozen talented performers included three background singers (Shaun Murphy, Laura Creamer and Barbara Payton); a four-piece horn section, the Motor City Horns; and drummer Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad.
Dressed in black T-shirt, jeans and headband, Seger roared through a generous selection of songs in a raspy, robust voice long familiar to legions of fans. He said he had been fighting a cold, but powered through such songs as "Trying To Live My Life Without You," "Night Moves" and a raucous "Old Time Rock and Roll."
The concert featured Seger's potent blend of rock, soul and R&B. Among the more playful, retro-sounding songs were "Katmandu," "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight" and "C'est La Vie," Seger's retitled version of the Chuck Berry classic "You Never Can Tell."
With duet partners from the entourage, Seger sang the raucous "Real Mean Bottle" (recorded with Kid Rock) and the gentle ballad "The Answer's in the Question" (recorded with Patty Loveless). Both were from the new album.
I am back home in Oregon and just wanted you to know the set list was same as Portland with the exception Bob left out "We've Got Tonight" he played 24 instead of 25 songs last night. He stated after the second song that he was suffering from a head cold but he would do his best.
He gave it all he had and I don't think anybody went away disappointed. A spoke with a lot of Canadians that were in attendance .
MI 11/8/06 Saginaw,
MI 11/10/06 Grand Rapids,
MI 11/12/06 Charleston,
WV 11/14/06 Milwaukee,
WI 11/16/06 Indianapolis 11/18/06 Knoxville,
TN 11/20/06 Cincinnati,
OH 11/25/06 Mpls/St. Paul,
MN 11/28/06 Chicago,
IL 11/30/06 Kansas City,
MO 12/2/06 St. Louis,
MO 12/4/06 Atlanta,
GA 12/07/06 Nashville,
TN 12/9/06 Louisville,
KY 12/12/06 Pittsburgh,
PA 12/14/06 Cleveland,
OH 12/16/06 Detroit 12/20/06 Detroit 12/22/06 Detroit 12/28/06 Detroit 12/30/06 Orlando,
FL 1/6/07 North Charleston,
SC 1/9/07 Hollywood,
FL 1/11/07 Tampa 1/13/07 Charlotte,
NC 1/16/07 Philadelphia 1/18/07 Uncasville,
CT 1/20/07 Toronto 1/23/07 New York
City 1/25/07 Boston 1/27/07 Worcester,
MA 1/30/07 Washington,
D.C. 2/1/07 Memphis 2/3/07 Dallas 2/8/07 Little
Rock 2/10/07 Houston 2/12/07 Denver 2/14/07 Portland 2/17/07 Seattle 2/22/07 Oakland 2/24/07 Phoenix 2/27/07 Los
Angeles 3/1/07 Las
Vegas 3/3/07 Omaha 3/6/07 Lexington,
KY 3/8/07 Columbus,
OH 3/10/07 Detroit 3/13/07 Detroit (Cobo
Hall) 3/15/07 Detroit (Cobo
Grand Rapids, MI
Grand Rapids, MI
Mpls/St. Paul, MN
Kansas City, MO
St. Louis, MO
North Charleston, SC
New York City
Detroit (Cobo Hall)
Detroit (Cobo Hall)