Seger delivers the memories that make us all wealthy souls.
Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man!
My head's still swirling. Just what is it, anway, what's the deal here -- what's the crazy secret behind that voice and smile....I mean, what does he do, exactly, when he does what he does, that makes me feel so damn alive?
Because after all the words I've written, after all the hours I've spent listening to his music, all the years spent working on this site, I still don't understand how Seger makes me feel so...so freaking here. So happy and so absolutely alive. So ready to hug people I don't even know.
And guess what? I don't want to know. I don't really care how he does it. I just want more, and more, and more.
Now, finally, that's
exactly what we're getting.
It's possible to get so excited, so tight, so buzzed with excitement that you almost need someone to slap you before you can enjoy yourself. And that was me at 8:40 in the Van Andel.
It started with the trucks. The beautiful and huge Face the Promise trucks. Not tucked away in the loading dock but parked out where people couldn't miss 'em, like twin sentinals that said This Is Seger Country. Man, was it ever.
We wandered into the box office around 4:00 as vendors were setting up the merch booth. As we were checking out the t-shirts, Alto Reed's muffled saxophone sounded the first plaintive notes of "Turn the Page." By the time Seger began his vocal, I was stunned. We were hearing Seger live! Albeit, very muffled. But the band was in the building, doing the sound check.
The excitement just built at the Segernet party across the street. People whose posts I've been reading for years were gathered there. It was like a mini Seger Convention, with two of the three biggest Seger websites represented in one room (Kevin: We missed you!). Segernet founder Eric Verona was celebrating his birthday, and he bought me something that tasted like a beer, and for the first time, we all traded stories without having to hit "Post" or "Send." It was a blast...and then it was time.
And what happens is you sit there, waiting for the moment. Waiting for the lights to dim. The PA system played a song that seemed to have "Heavy Music" sampled into it in places, and then Dylan's "Things Have Changed" rang out and it felt like we were getting close.
And then Thin Lizzy burst out, and the crowd just took its feet. Someone turned the PA up and Phil Lynott's terrific vocal filled the arena with the absolute perfect intro: "Guess who just got back today? Them wild-eyed boys that been away!" and then Seger was on the stage and the crowd was shouting and shouting and shouting, and from that moment on we never sat down, and we never stopped moving and we never stopped smiling. It was here. Seger!
"Roll Me Away" I expected. "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" surprised me. "Wreck this Heart" may have done damage to my shoulder ligaments because my fist wouldn't stay out of the air. "Mainstreet" slowed it down. And the next song caught me totally by surprise and right between the eyes.
Those songs were good, but now they're done.
In fact, before the show, I had a short phone conversation with journalist Rick Coates whose interview with Seger was published last week in the Northern Express. Rick said The Who were playing mainly their new album in concert, and that it wasn't working. He felt Seger should take heed and be sure to play the hits. I wasn't completely convinced. I mean, I love Face the Promise.
But then came the Van Andel show and I realized how wrong I was. When "Mainstreet" was over, Seger said, "God, I hope you remember this one, I really do." And then -- knock me down and slap me senseless -- he hit us with "Old Time Rock & Roll." And it never sounded so good, or so fresh, or so joyous. So help me, I couldn't get enough. That song does something to an arena that is simply out of this world.
After that, for me, it was like the valves were open and pure Seger was pouring in. When "Old Time" was done, Seger said, "That's only 20 percent of the show!" and joked, "We've been practicing for five and half weeks, and my wife said, 'When are you going to do a whole show?' And I said, 'Grand Rapids!'"
"No Matter Who You Are" was a delight. I remember "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight" working great in the 86-87 tour and in the '96 tour and it worked great here too.
"We've Got Tonight" was my beer break. Sorry, I know it's a wonderful song. Maybe for you it's the best song Seger's ever written. I probably should have stayed and listened because the beer cost $7.75.
And then "Turn the Page," and then, for me, the highlight. If you had told me, before the show, that something off Live Bullet would be the highlight, I would have smiled politely and mentally reclassified you as insane. Turns out, I'm the crazy one. Because "Travellin' Man/Beautiful Loser" was just plain otherworldly. It was amazing. It wasn't a highlight of the concert, it was a highlight of life. At the end, you've got 12,000 people singing along to Beautiful Loser and sorry for the big word but it's absolutely transcendent.
Only in Michigan. Only in Paradise. Only with Bob Seger.
And then after that, when you're already reeling, the night's monster groove just slams you. I wrote in my review of Face the Promise that "Between" was a beast that only comes out at night...meaning it seemed to be a song that sounds best after sundown. True dat. But after sundown, live, in an arena full of people. It's freaking unstopable. My friend TL said it was the best song of the night.
"C'est La Vie (You Never Can Tell)" was a Chuck Berry treat. When it was done, Seger did just what I had been hoping he'd do. They brought out some stools and the band members lined up next to him as he sat in a chair for a soulful version of "Answer's in the Question" featuring Laura Creamer. It wasn't quite Seger Unplugged, but it was as intimate as you can get in a 12,000 seat arena. I loved it.
And I loved his next choice even more. In the same casual setting, Seger did "Sightseeing" describing it as "a song I wrote for my wife 17 years ago." He told about seeing a painting and weaving in some politics in an intro that was totally unrehearsed and real. (In contrast to Steve Azar, the opening act. Azar was good, but you just know his song intros are word for word the same in every show. The intros are part of the performance, whereas with Seger, he's simply talking to you, and it feels so much more personal.)
"Sunspot Baby" was great and actually featured a kind of light show. (It reminded me, however, that Seger never really answered the only question I've put to him in the last 20 years, which is "Why 'Sunspot?'" Why not SunBurnt or SunDown or Sunday or whatever? So I was distracted for a moment.)
The final five songs, I'm surprised to see now, were exactly the same as the final five songs from his 1996 show in Portland, Oregon. Nevertheless, "Katmandu" caught me completely off guard and practically sent me into the stratosphere. It was brilliant.
What can I say about the encores? You're already in a frenzy at that point.
There was no "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." No Kid Rock and "Real Mean Bottle." No "2 + 2 = ?" No "Lucifer" and no "Like A Rock."
But there was no disapointment either. The band was great, the night was rocking. This was Seger at his most joyous, at his best.
There's more I could say. But it's my last day in Northern Michigan for another year and the sunlight's fading. And anyway, you know what I mean. If you're reading this, chances are you're seeing some shows. Let me know what you think. And prepare to be stunned.
'It's great to be back!' Seger says
Seger Nation reconvened -- it only took 11 years, but it's as if 1975 at Cobo Hall was just yesterday. People scarfed down too many beers, slow-danced at inappropriate times, and you even saw grandmotherly types try to scoot past security.
It was all for the man of the moment, Bob Seger, who kicked off his first tour in 11 years here at Van Andel Arena. It was a warm, nostalgic set but most important, Seger seemed at ease and loose, even dancing more than we remember him doing back in the day.
There was an appropriate musical introduction -- Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town" burst from the loudspeakers -- then at 8:45 p.m. Seger and the Silver Bullet Band took the stage, opening with "Roll Me Away." Seger's voice and wind were a worry; at 61 he practiced all summer to make sure he could last for two-plus hours. The good news is, his voice sounded rich, deep and burnished, but without the signs of wear he's shown at times in the last few years.
Whatever he's doing -- Throat Coat tea? -- he had the old Cobo Hall roar back. He did complain more than a few times about being out of breath. During "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," he sang the lyric as "Now sweet 16's turned SIXTY-ONE!" shaking his head and laughing as the crowd roared.
At one point he said he'd been practicing for five weeks, and his wife asked, "When are you going to do a whole show?"
"Grand Rapids?" he said, laughing. The crowd cheered.
"It's great to be back!" Seger said right before launching into the old Memphis tune, Otis Clay's "Trying to Live My Life Without You," which the Motor City Horns augmented perfectly.
Many of us were hoping to hear "Rambling, Gambling Man" -- we don't often get to hear any '60s vintage Seger -- but instead he reached back to Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" and encored on "Katmandu," "Night Moves," Hollywood Nights" and "Against the Wind."
Seger's tour kickoff is a welcome return
It's not always simple finding the magic in rock and roll these days. Sometimes you have to look hard, digging through a swamp of soundalike newcomers, fashionable phonies and retread oldies acts.
Once in a while, though, the moments still come easy. Bob Seger made it that way on an emotionally charged evening at Van Andel Arena, sounding strong and looking upbeat as he underlined his iconic home state status for more than 12,000 high-spirited fans.
On the opening night of a tour that will take him across the country, the 61-year-old Detroit native tapped deep wells of nostalgia without lapsing into schmaltz in a 2-hour, 15-minute show that ended with a two-encore bang. It was an evening that felt easygoing but purposeful, a comeback that felt triumphant.
Michigan hadn't seen him like this in a while. A decade ago, Seger stepped off the Pine Knob stage and walked into full-time family life. For the next several years, he was absent from the rock world he'd inhabited since the mid-'60s, bunkering down to raise a son and daughter.
Seger traditionally has opened his tours in out-of-the-way markets, and with Grand Rapids he had a cozy corner -- a friendly audience on familiar turf. At Van Andel, where tickets had sold out in six minutes, it was the sort of night destined to be special no matter how Seger sounded, as fans arrived with their ragged old concert shirts and untattered loyalty.
Casual in blue jeans and a black T-shirt, silver hair gleaming under the spotlight, Seger opened with a soaring "Roll Me Away." If there were nerves, they didn't show; he looked loose and assured on the no-frills stage, pumping his fists and grinning as he shot thumbs-up at his audience.
With a polished Silver Bullet Band he delivered an eclectic set list -- classic hits laced with offbeat selections ("You Never Can Tell") and party faves ("Old Time Rock and Roll," "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight"). The show sagged only during a stretch of new material -- he could ditch the plodding "Simplicity" and help the cause.
Soaked in sweat by the set's third song, the pumping "Wreck This Heart," he joked about his stamina during frequent loose, amiable banter between songs.
Seger is a heavy smoker who just two months ago confessed genuine anxiety about the state of his voice. But although he'll never again sound like the 30-year-old whose raw roar could propel him to the edge of rock abandon on "Live Bullet," he was rugged and robust Wednesday night, revealing a voice that sounded burnished by the years rather than corroded by them.
It's a lengthy tour road ahead for Seger, whose real test will come as he moves into the guts of the tour, with shows every other night.
But Wednesday night was a firm push off the starting ramp, a solid blast of momentum as he heads to Saginaw on Friday and back to Grand Rapids on Sunday. It was also a big reminder why, in Michigan at least, Seger is far more than just another old rocker hitting the road.
SAGINAW -- There's a line in "Old Time Rock & Roll," Bob Seger's ubiquitous jukebox staple, that goes: "Call me a relic, call me what you will/Say I'm old fashioned, say I'm over the hill."
You can call him all of those things. He's never been one to follow trends or add commercially expedient elements to his soulful mix of blues- and R&B-flavored rock 'n' roll.
Just don't call him irrelevant or past his prime.
The Detroit rock legend may be long in the tooth, but he still knows how to get the job done, or as one sign in Friday's Dow Event Center Arena crowd proclaimed simply, "Still damn good."
Judging from the almost spiritual connection he made with a sell-out crowd of 6,600 singing, clapping, roaring, chanting fans, he's still very relevant to folks around in his backyard.
He's still vital to folks all over the country, too, even though he disappeared for 10 years. New album "Face the Promise" has sold nearly half a million copies. The tour, which launched to a full house Wednesday in Grand Rapids (where it returns Sunday night), is expected to play to big crowds around the country through the winter.
And you've got a love a guy who doesn't try hide his age. With his gray hair and beard, glasses, headbands, floppy black t-shirt (the better to hide his paunch) and jeans, Seger looked more like an incognito Santa than a heartland rock icon. But his earthy honesty has always been a big part of his everyman appeal.
At this stage of his life, with a loving wife and two kids, Seger has found the love, freedom and happiness he sought when he wrote all those great soul-searching anthems in his '70s and '80s heyday, songs like "Turn the Page" and "Against the Wind" that sound just as fresh today as they did then.
Looking more animated, sounding more confident and not as winded as he was Wednesday, Seger was like a kid in a candy store in Saginaw, one of the many cities on this side of the state that watched him grow up on stage. He hasn't performed here in over two decades, but it was obvious from Friday's show that he has not lost that personal connection.
The crowd -- which quickly warmed to opener Steve Azar's appealing mix of country, rock and blues -- sang loudly and with great conviction on many of the songs they came to hear, songs that have been part of their personal soundtracks -- "Mainstreet" (about his days on Ann Street in Ann Arbor), "Turn the Page" (the essential road anthem where the former autoworker admits, "here I go/Playin' star again"), "Night Moves" (about awkward teens' sexual awakenings), "Hollywood Nights" (the tale of a misplaced Midwesterner feeling out of his element) and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" (a celebration of music as social connective tissue and a fitting show closer).
The fans, a mix of young and old, sang so loudly, in fact, that they nearly drowned out their hero.
That's all right. Seger's lost none of the grit of his voice, but he has lost the high-end of it, something he seems to be negotiating nightly. Letting the crowd sing the hard parts was a big part of the fun of the show Friday. The audience served as an unofficial member of Seger's Silver Bullet Band, which packed plenty of wallop on its own Friday.
With opening night distractions out of the way, the Bullets were more comfortable and played harder Friday. They've also gotten bigger, with core members Chris Campbell (bass), crowd-pleasing showman saxman Alto Reed and former Flintite Craig Frost, the ex-Grand Funk Railroad keyboardist, joined by 11 other musicians.
They include an underutilized four-man horn section, three female backup singers (longtimer Laura Creamer dueted with Seger on the new country-tinged ballad "The Answer's in the Question"), the snarling guitar tandem of Seger vet Mark Chatfield and Nashville newcomer Jim "Moose" Brown and the welcome return of Grand Funk drummer and former Flintite Don Brewer. His muscular style is a perfect fit for Seger's escapist blue collar blowouts, like "Travelin' Man" and "Katmandu," and he seemed especially pumped to play so close to home.
Friday's performance -- the second of the tour -- was hampered by occasional technical problems and mistakes. Seger flubbed a few lines here and there. His vocals and the band's various instruments seemed at times to disappear and reappear in the mix.
But he shrugged it off with a laugh. When his guitar tech brought out the wrong instrument not once, but twice, Seger joked that the techie was going to commit suicide because "he never makes a mistake." When the song got off to a disjointed start, Seger cracked: "This one's cursed tonight."
There was also a curiously short 10-minute intermission at the halfway point, something he didn't do Wednesday. Seger admitted with some embarrassment that he sweated so profusely in Grand Rapids that he unsuccessfully tried to change his shirt during a song. The break was added Friday to give him time to make a quick change, but it was disruptive.
It might make more sense to either extend the intermission -- so fans can scramble back to their seats on time -- or let the band extend the instrumental section of "Travelin' Man" long enough for him to throw on a dry shirt.
The set list is a work in progress. Seger has built in two segments where he can sit and sing, both of which are musically rewarding, especially his ominous vocal on "Turn the Page," accompanying himself on grand piano. A two-song acoustic section is a nice touch, but might work better if another songs was added (perhaps the lovely "The Long Goodbye" or "You'll Accomp'ny Me"?) and the whole thing exchanged places with the piano songs at the middle of the set.
Seger wisely trimmed a grouping of four new songs to three, moving the overly repetitious "Simplicity" back in the set (newbie "Are You" would work better and show off Shaun Murphy's soulful vocal gifts). He also traded out the environmentally conscious "Between" for the anti-war "No More," which would be a nice addition to the acoustic segment.
One reporter's journey with Bob Seger
Off to Saginaw for Seger's second tour stop in the Dow Event Center, half the size of Van Andel. Clearly, Seger doesn't have to play the 6,600-seat ice arena, but I figure this whole blue-collar approach is a reward to diehard fans in corners of the state where he first rattled the rafters nearly 40 years ago.
And boy, are these 40- and 50-somethings grateful their hero in, yes, the black T-shirt, faded jeans and headband, is back. They raise beer cups and scream their lungs out for more than two hours.
Seger has changed things since opening night: He's dropped two songs from the new album, added one, the anti-war "No More," and tossed in a smokin' rendition of "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man."
Oh, there are still a few missteps, mismixes and vocal stumbles, but it's a better-paced show, and the Silver Bullet Band is livelier and more relaxed.
"Turn the Page," "Horizontal Bop" and "Hollywood Nights" have become emotionally charged highlights.
Seger also takes an eight-minute intermission, explaining apologetically that he discovered in Grand Rapids he didn't have time to change his shirt.
"It's kind of embarrassing. I got so wet. I was so sweaty," he confesses. So what's he wearing when he re-emerges? A black T-shirt.
Okay. It's been 40 years since Bob Seger, Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame inductee and one of the last icons still standing from the 'Golden Age' of Michigan Rock 'n Roll, paired those poetic opening lyrics to a perfect fuzz-toned riff on his first Cameo-Parkway single back in January, 1966.
Needless to say, a lot of Hollywood Nights (not to mention those spent on Main Street) have come and gone over four decades.
But as I stand at the Dow Event Center and watch a 61-year old Seger take to the stage for a record-breaking sell-out show, I can't help but think about the litany of great songs that he penned from 1966 - '76, and how many of the best (Heavy Music, Ivory, Down Home, Lucifer) are conspicuously absent from the set.
Perhaps its because they were written at a time when Seger, for all ostensible purposes, was neither rich nor that famous. Though he had a breakout national hit with Ramblin' Gamblin Man in February, 1968, his great follow-up albums (Noah, Mongrel, Smokin' O.P's) pretty much failed to crack out of the regional market.
Indeed, it wasn't until Beautiful Loser that Seger started gaining national attention again; and it took Live Bullet (which ironically followed the same formula that Peter Frampton did in terms of releasing his strongest overlooked studio gems in the context of a 'Live Concert Album!') that Seger truly started riding that silver bullet to riches & stardom.
So (he probably figures) why perform anything edgy from the days of the Seger System, when he has such bankable hits as Old Time Rock 'n Roll, Turn the Page, and We've Got the Night to pay the heating bill and pay for the renovations on that home up at Harbor Springs.
Not to say this material isn't good, but to me it epitomizes a period where Seger, tired of floundering in regional esteem and paying his dues in countless obscure club dates, decided to follow the model of the fast food industry. After all, true art may be incendiary, inspiring, and life defining; but you don't sell a lot of Chevrolets with it.
While I am not one to criticize anybody for appealing and reaching out to a larger demographic; in essence, witnessing Bob Seger back in energetic form after an almost 20-year absence from live performance focused my thoughts on this issue: the distinction between artistic and commercial success, whether or not they are mutually exclusive, or could they be balanced without suffering the dullness of compromise.
Actually, I wanted to ask Seger these very questions, however our much-requested interview was not to materialize. "We're waiting for the okay from Punch Andrews (Seger's manager) as to when he can start talking to the press again," I was told. Personally, I think it has something to do with that article I did on Kid Rock four years ago, when his ex-guitarist informed me that Kid would put apple juice into an empty bottle of Southern Comfort before going on stage, that clinched the deal. (Kid Rock and Seger share the same management, you see).
In a recent interview with Rick Coates in the Northern Express Seger revealed that he presently has "700 songs in the 'vault' with 300 recorded." " One of these days I'm going to have to take the time and play all these tapes and hope they don't fall apart. I have had this vision of creating an album called 'Everything' and release 60 songs at once," Seger reveals. Obviously, Seger has not been whiling away all his hours sailing the Port Huron to Mackinac race and attending Pistons games over the past decade.
As for the concert itself, I'll leave it to Bo White to describe, as he did quite insightfully in his recent blog on whitesbar.com
"Like the zombies in the Night of the living Dead flick, people were voraciously devouring memories - mindlessly gnawing on the bloody corpse of the Seger catalog. Singing each lyric at the top of their ragged lungs in honor to the high priest of working class rock' n roll. Bob Seger - who finally got off his yacht, squeezed on a pair of over-sized black denims, did a coupla sit-ups, gargled with warm salt water, and prepared to rock the house down."
"No matter that Seger's range had narrowed considerably through the years, he STILL rocked. Hell, the old fart had more energy than any one of the old used-up boomers wearing Seger tee's from '78 and drinking $9 beer. Yep, we were quite a sight. And Seger·.well, he leaped, hopped and ran across the stage like a mongoose chasin' a snake."
"Seger opened with Roll Me Away and then proceeded to dust off one classic after another·Turn the Page, Mainstreet, We've Got Tonight, Beautiful Loser·almost hitting the notes and goin' flat when you cold hear him. But it was with his new songs from Face the Promise where he really hit his mark. Wreck My Heart, Wait for Me, Simplicity, No More - that's who he is now and that's how he sounds today."
"It took guts to lay so many new songs to an audience that worships the past and yearns for its lost youth, but Seger pulled it off - with humility and charm."
"He also performed crowd pleasers such as Hollywood Nights and Against the Wind, bonafide top-ten hits that signaled Seger's artistic decline. Don't get me wrong, I love Bob Seger and I was grateful to see him one more time. And I'm glad I got it out of my system."
Barbara Payton is a musical force of nature, and hence possesses all the elements essential to go places in Rock 'n Roll. A fiery, lean, lanky redhead with a powerful and nuanced laden voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin genetically spliced to Bette Midler, the first time I became aware of Payton was six years ago through her work with Stewart Francke. Payton was performing as a back-up singer in Stewart's band, and opened his CD release party at The Magic Bag in Detroit with a set of her own hard-rocking brand of Roadhouse R&B.
Needless to say, I was blown away, as few artists command a stage with such an unabashed display of timing, energy, and release. Attired in jeans and a designer sheepskin coat, Payton wielded the microphone around like Rod Stewart back in his Faces days, yet could reach into soul stirring depths on quieter ballads in a cabaret style reminiscent of the poignant, breathless delivery of Midler, and even Liza Minnelli (if the Pet Shop Boys were at the helm).
A definitive force on the Detroit music scene for close to two decades, Payton has two original cd's already under her belt, Walk on Water and Enjoy the View, that fully showcase the tapestry and textures of her music - deeply honest, immensely heartfelt, and brimming with raw energy.
So it should not be surprising that when Bob Seger began making plans for his first major tour in well over a decade, he would tap upon Barb Payton to join the backing vocal line-up of Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy in the 2006 incarnation of Seger's Silver Bullet Band.
Recently I caught up with Payton for a brief interview, as she was caught in an ice storm in Chicago in-between gigs on Seger's current sold-out comeback tour.
Review: Please discuss your background in music, so readers have a sense of who you are. When did you first get interested in music and what type of projects have you focused upon?
Payton: Music was always a pivotal part of my upbringing due to the fact that my parents are both retired music teachers. I started singing very early on in the church choir and then I began playing an instrument as well. As far as my becoming focused upon projects in the vein of music, that didn't happen until much later.
I simply enjoyed singing and only seemed to fantasize about taking my craft seriously, however once I let go of the fantasy and decided to form my own band (talk about bringing you down to reality) the rewards of doing so greatly outweighed living in a fantasy. All that being said, the next project I will focus on will be to release another cd.
Review: How did you manage to get the gig with the Silver Bullet Band?
Payton: I know several people that work for Bob and they encouraged his manager Punch Andrews to come out and hear me sing. We became friends and since then he has been instrumental in opening several doors for me to some of my most memorable musical experiences.
Review: Had you been a big fan of Bob Seger prior to auditioning?
Review: What is it like embarking upon a tour of this magnitude and caliber? Is it daunting to perform in front of so many sold-out audiences and what does such an experience feel like?
Payton: I'm not sure that I can even describe it accurately. Surreal would be one word that comes to mind. I'd also say that it has been life changing in the most amazing way. To answer your question "is it daunting to perform to so many sold out audiences" hell yes!
Review: Personally and professionally, what are the most challenging components about touring with Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band?
Payton: Professionally I'd have to say that it was learning all my parts and trying my best every time to nail them. I have a newfound respect for anyone who has ever sang backups. Laura Creamer & Shaun Murphy are two of the most gifted singers that I have ever had the pleasure and honor of working with.
Personally I'd have to say that it's adjusting to the road and being away from my family and friends.
Review: Do you notice, or have you been able to assess, any differences in working with Bob as opposed to other artists or musicians you have worked with in the past? Ancillary question: What are you learning from this?
Payton: I can't make a comparison because I've never worked with someone of this magnitude before. I will say that I am learning more than I ever could have imagined I would, personally and professionally.
Review: What are your favorite Bob Seger songs?
Payton: How do you pick just a few from such a vast and amazing catalog? Okay, if I have to then it would be Ramblin Gamblin Man, Beautiful Loser, "We've Got Tonight" and Travelin Man.
Review: Are you involved much, as part of the band, with selection of songs for the set list and do the shows vary much? Seger has such a huge catalog of great material that I'm curious as to how these decisions are derived?
Payton: No. He has all the artistic control over the song choices at every rehearsal, as he should.
Review: Are there any experiences from the tour thus far that truly stand out in your mind?
Payton: Yes·and I can't share them with you. Okay, I can tell you that I will never forget the first time I stepped out onto that stage and heard the roar of the crowd! When the lights came up and I saw how many people were there, I thought I might faint.
Review: How long will you be touring and what are your plans after the tour?
Payton: It looks as though the tour may end sometime in March, but don't hold me to that.
After the tour I plan on
going back to my music and writing some new songs with some
of my band members for the next cd. Of course I'll play out
live as well, because I just love singing, especially with
the great groups of guys that I work with!
Photos by David Boyle. Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
Only an earthy guy like Bob Seger can make the rock star in "Turn the Page" a real mensch, a sympathetic character for millions of fans who've never stood in the spotlight or felt the roar of an adoring audience.
And only Seger -- a decade removed from his last tour with gray hair and ubiquitous spectacles to prove it -- could make lyrics from that 1973 song seem more powerful and more fitting now than ever:
"Here I am, on the road again; there I am, up on the stage; here I go, playin' star again; there I go, turn the page."
With Van Andel Arena's exuberant sell-out crowd of 12,500 singing every word of that classic on Sunday night, Seger turned another page in his much-hyped return, unleashing the first bona fide spinetingler of his five-day-old tour.
Recovering from early microphone glitches, Seger and his lovable Silver Bullet Band let loose their strongest performance yet of the three concerts they've delivered since opening in Grand Rapids on Wednesday.
They did it by streamlining their set list and injecting boundless energy -- thanks mostly to guitarist Mark Chatfield and sax whiz Alto Reed -- into rollicking Seger favorites such as "Horizontal Bop" and "Travelin' Man."
Seger, 61, did his part by displaying his most robust vocals to date and exhibiting sheer glee, hugging bandmates and grinning broadly at the raucous crowd.
"Now, we're settling into the show," Chatfield explained after the concert, which came two days after the band played Saginaw's Dow Events Center and five days after the tour-opener in Van Andel Arena. "The comfort level is growing."
Not that there weren't some harrowing moments after opening act Steve Azar and band completed their bracing 40-minute set of rock- and blues-tinged country songs.
Seger's cordless microphone cut out on his first song, "Roll Me Away." It forced a sound technician to race on stage with a replacement, only to have the mike problems return during the intro to the third tune, "Wreck This Heart," from the recently released "Face the Promise" CD.
But if the technical difficulties rattled Seger, he didn't show it. By the time he exploded into "Old Time Rock and Roll" 18 minutes in, drummer Don Brewer and bassist Chris Campbell were deftly propelling Seger and the 13-piece band into their best rendition of the throwback rocker yet, further enhanced by Reed's sizzling sax solo.
With few exceptions, Seger's voice sounded stronger and more confident than during the two previous shows, from the heartland rock of "Face the Promise" to the get-up-and-boogie romp of "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight" to the tender balladry of "We've Got Tonight."
"It's so great to be back. It really is, I can't tell you," gushed Seger, who played guitar and piano on several songs, though he spent the bulk of the evening with only a microphone in hand.
Proving less is more, the band cut two songs from the second set -- a slow ballad, "The Answer's in the Question" from his new album, and a country-honk number, "Sightseeing" -- replacing them with a single blues tune, "Satisfied," that's well-suited to Seger's rasp.
Not surprisingly, Seger got the warmest response for cherished faves such as "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," "Night Moves," "Hollywood Nights" and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," which closed out the second encore.
During solo riffs by Chatfield and Reed, Seger -- in what's become his familiar, simple stage wardrobe of black T-shirt and blue jeans -- happily pumped his fists and swayed back and forth like the father at a Polish wedding, beaming during the bridal dance.
Hey, few rock stars utter phrases like, "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh" between songs; few are as lacking in the pretentiousness department. Because more so than even Bruce Springsteen, Seger gives a voice to the common man, the plain-speaking fellow on the assembly line.
And his native Michigan heart beats strong and true, making him a beloved hero in places like Detroit, Saginaw and Grand Rapids, where one fan at the back of the arena proudly waved a sign near the end of Sunday's show.
"Still Damn Good," the sign proclaimed.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band rocked the Charleston Civic Center Tuesday night on the third stop on their first tour in a decade.
Seger is on a 16-city, 35-day tour in support of his first album in just as long, the recently released "Face the Promise." The '70s and '80s Detroit rocker still has enough devoted fans to make it his best release ever, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
A near-capacity crowd braved the chilly temps and a brazen ticket scalper to turn back the clock and get down with a rock 'n' roll icon.
The show started with Steve Azar, a 42-year-old singer/songwriter hailing from the Mississippi Delta, touring in support of his forthcoming album, "Indianaola."
Azar and his five-man band plowed through a road-tested set of thunderous country-fried blues and rock. The songs sounded radio-friendly enough, but the bass-heavy PA removed any chance of him connecting with potential fans on a personal level.
But the band just killed time to allow Seger fans to trickle in after buying high-priced merchandise.
Around 8:40 p.m., the aging rocker and his crew took the blue-lit stage to raucous applause. Sporting faded blue jeans, a black T-shirt and a sweatband, Seger and crew rolled through the new "Wreck This Heart" and the classic "Roll Me Away."
"I'm 61, and still feeling it," Seger said as he greeted the crowd and launched into "Old Time Rock & Roll" far too early in the show.
As selections off the new album were played, one fan was overheard to say, "I don't like the new stuff. I don't know it, so I don't want to hear it."
Seger eventually broke out the big guns. Manning the piano, he crafted a lighter-worthy version of "We've Got Tonight" and that famous ode to life on the road "Turn the Page" -- giving fans a chance to sing along.
For the encore, the Silver Bullet Band played "Simplicity" off their new album, then went back 38 years to play "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" to much applause and "C'est La Vie," their interpretation of a Chuck Berry tune.
Seger continued through favorites such as "Katmandu," "Night Moves," "Hollywood Nights" and "Against the Wind" with the Silver Bullet Band's lead guitarist and saxophonist stealing the show.
Unfortunately, the Civic Center's sound system sometimes muffled Seger's throaty vocals.
As he closed what is likely his last show in Charleston with "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," Seger tweaked the lyrics to spite his age: "Well now sweet 16's turned 61."
I've been getting paid to go to concerts for most of my adult life, so people often ask me what the best concert I've ever seen was.
The answer probably varies from time to time, but on the very short list would be Bob Seger at East Troy's Alpine Valley circa 1978. Seger was at the height of his rock 'n' roll glory that night, and he did five encores, each one rising in intensity to a roaring finish with Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock."
In the years since then, Seger's life has sometimes seemed like a long retreat from stardom. The albums came more and more sporadically, three or four years apart. In early middle age, he divorced and remarried and immersed himself in the pleasures of family and parenthood. Now, after an 11-year absence, Bob Seger is back with a new album, "Face the Promise," and a road tour that brought him to the Bradley Center Thursday night.
Obviously this isn't the same Seger I saw at Alpine Valley. The hair is still thick, but gray; the physique in jeans and loose black T is a mite softer; and there's a pair of granny glasses on the bridge of his nose. In short, he looks like a rock 'n' roll grandpa. But more importantly the chops are still there, vocally and as a songwriter, too.
The new album isn't his absolute best work but it's pretty good, still true to the core values that made his name a touchstone in heartland rock. Seger's musical virtues include emotional honesty, a kind of blue-collar-everyman outlook and a restless spirit blended with a belief in the redemptive power of love. Seger is part of a tradition that starts with Chuck Berry and weaves through Detroit brethren like Mitch Ryder.
One of the likable things about Seger in concert is that he seems comfortable with who he is. At one point, he stopped to catch his breath and shouted, "61! Yeah!" Many of the songs he wrote in his prime like "Roll Me Away," "Night Moves," "Old Time Rock & Roll," and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," were about the passage of youth. All of them were in the set list Thursday, with perhaps an extra coat or two of reflection and perspective. They remain, many of them, terrific songs. "Night Moves" is still one of the best sexual coming of age tunes in the rock songbook. Seger's classic document of life on the road, "Turn the Page," came with a bit of a revelation. Seger said he wrote that tune in a hotel room in Eau Claire, Wis., back in '72.
The new songs are actually more about living in the moment. The singer of "Face the Promise" has "mighty plans" and is eager to hit the city lights. "Simplicity" is all about breaking it down to the basics and enjoying that.
Speaking of simplicity, that seems to be the approach to this tour. This was about as no-frills as arena rock gets. No projection screens. Minimal staging. Just Bob and 12 backing musicians. Most of the old Silver Bullet hands are gone, but Alto Reed is still there on sax and Chris Campbell on bass. The hired hands were first rate, though. Singing backup was Shaun Murphy, who's usually seen as the frontwoman for Little Feat.
As Seger went on in his career, the ballads gradually overshadowed the rockers in his albums. However, this was not exactly a set list for resting weary bones. High points included Berry's "Never Can Tell," the sexual rave up "Horizontal Bop," and an all-out attack on "Katmandu." Seger told the crowd several times it was great to be back, and it certainly looked like it. Better yet, the fun was contagious.
Opening act Steve Azar is a country cat who might seem like an unlikely warm-up for Seger on several levels. On stage, however, he proved to be a whole lot closer to Bruce Springsteen than George Jones, winning over the Bradley Center crowd with high energy rockers like "The Underdog" and "Goin' to Beat the Devil."
A Musician for All Ages
Some 40 years into the making of another rock legend from Detroit, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band put on an energetic performance for an age-diverse audience at the Bradley Center and, along with some noteworthy new material, gave the crowd hit after hit after hit-- of song that is.
Modestly dressed in his trademark fashion of a black tee and blue jeans, Seger warmed things up a bit with tunes like "Old Time Rock & Roll" before donning his black headband and working up a sweat with the driving, new tunes "Face the Promise" and "No Matter Who You Are."Bob Seger Lively and animated throughout the night, Seger only took a brief break by way of an intermission and seemed to give it all he had, while his vocal, guitar and piano abilities showed no age-- though after one song Seger was noticeably out of breath, exclaiming, "61 years old. Yeah!" and then laughing.
Part of the show's charm was that Seger seemed genuinely appreciative of being able to be up on the stage in his 60's, and his from the heartland style of rock was infectious. Just a few of the classics played included a raucous "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," a set-ending "Katmandu" braced by the power of the four-horn strong Motor City Horns, and a thunderous "Hollywood Nights" featuring the power and precision of the backup singers, Shaun Murphy (frontwoman for Little Feat), Barbara Payton and Laura Creamer, carrying the power to the end of the tune. Original Silver Bullet Members Alto Reed and Chris Campbell, on saxes and bass respectively, made their presence known, especially in "Turn the Page," which Seger noted he wrote while at a hotel in Eau Claire, Wis., in 1972. And, guitarist Mark Chatfield was especially noticeable with his fiery guitar in the medley of "Travelin'" and "Beautiful Loser."
Paying homage to the old time Detroit rock sound that shaped him, Seger's own "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight" primed the palate while his take on Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" truly delivered and culled much approval from the audience. Those hoping to hear some rock ballads weren't let down by Seger either and, more importantly, nor were they put to sleep by "Night Moves" and "Against the Wind." With teens all the way up to sixty-somethings singing along through the show, Seger is a musician for all ages, for the ages, and has proven to be equally indelible as both a performer and a singer/songwriter.
After a decade of doting on youngsters at home, Bob Seger has returned to the road.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and touring are a natural fit, as evidenced by the wealth of travel songs he's written and proved by the near-instant sell-out of Saturday's performance at Conseco Fieldhouse.
An audience of more than 15,000 greeted Seger and his Silver Bullet Band with hearty cheers on the fifth date of a tour designed to promote the new studio album "Face the Promise."
In particular, the crowd unleashed thundering ovations for two oldies -- "Turn the Page" and "Old Time Rock and Roll" -- performed before the concert's midpoint intermission.
"Turn the Page," of course, is Seger's soul-baring depiction of a traveling road show.
As the audience sang along to the ballad's every word, one line proved to be false:
Seger sang "Out there in the spotlight, you're a million miles away," but Saturday's scene collapsed that distance to virtually nothing.
With audience and performer transmitting identical levels of positive vibes, this was the feel-good show of 2006.
Seger danced and even kicked a beach ball during the rousing "Old Time Rock and Roll." It may be a predictable highlight, but it was a genuine one on this night.
Now 61, Seger wore blue jeans, a black T-shirt and glasses onstage. Under a full head of silver hair, he admitted to being a bit winded after seven songs.
A sweat-absorbing headband emerged with an acoustic guitar for a rendition of 1976's "Main Street." Although the singer's voice has been weathered for years, the grit is still there and easiest to detect during ballads such as "Main Street."
Regarding Seger's latest work, it remains true to his restless and resilient nature.
Perhaps the highest compliment is that no gap in time is heard between the songs of "Face the Promise" and his salad days of the 1970s and 1980s.
Rock 'n' roll never forgets, and neither does Bob Seger. After a 10-year absence from touring, Seger and the Silver Bullet Band returned to Knoxville. And his fans hadn't forgotten him either.
Approximately 12,000 people crowded into Thompson-Boling Arena Monday night to hear hits from 20 and 30 years ago, along with a handful of songs from Seger's new album "Face the Promise." The show was one of the largest of the past several years.
After an opening set by Steve Azar, Seger took the stage at 8:45 p.m. He looked a little older. He wore glasses. He didn't move quite as much as in the old days, but his voice was virtually unchanged -- it's a gruff instrument that might have belonged to an older man when Seger was only in his 20s.
Now 61, Seger's voice fits him, but he still has the lungpower to wail at will.
Stylistically, Seger is a first-generation link to the classic Detroit rock of the 1960s. Like Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Seger (whose '60s band was called the Bob Seger System) is a white boy who gravitated to black rhythm and blues in the early 1960s. He wanted to sing like Tina Turner (he had a minor hit covering Turner's "Nutbush City Limits"), and it was obvious in his 1968 hit "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" -- a song that was one of the highlights of Monday's show.
Unlike many other '60s Detroit artists, Seger clung to the R&B roots. The Stooges, MC5 and the Amboy Dukes all went psychedelic (and were forebears of what would later be called punk), but Seger watched those other acts become more acclaimed and successful. Yet, when those fellow Detroit rock bands had gloriously burned out, Seger was just starting to come into his own.
When Seger took the stage on Monday singing his 1983 hit "Roll Me Away" it was easy to see why. He's a populist. He never set out to make album masterpieces or challenge his audience. He wrote, and still writes, solid songs and delivers them the way his audience expects them. Just like an old-time R&B artist, he's out strictly to entertain as honestly as he can.
And for a little more than two hours on Monday (including a very short intermission), Seger delivered most of his biggest hits with no updating and no surprises.
That dependability is doubtless one of the things that drew the crowd of mostly late-30 to late-60-year-olds out on a cold night.
Other favorite hits included "Mainstreet," "Old Time Rock & Roll," "We've Got Tonite," "Turn the Page," "Still the Same," "Hollywood Nights" and "Against the Wind." The low-key hit "Still the Same" was actually the song that showed the least age.
Some of the best moments were from the period just before Seger became one of the most successful acts of the 1970s, including "Katmandu" and a medley of "Travelin' Man" and "Beautiful Loser."
Yet all were delivered well and the sound was remarkably good for an arena show.
Seger's 13-piece band relies heavily on brass and the rhythm section. Many of Seger's band members were old Silver Bullet hands, including saxophonist Alto Reed, backing vocalist Laura Creamer and Craig Frost. Drummer Don Brewer was an original member of the Grand Funk Railroad (Frost actually a later member of the band as well), another hit-making group from Detroit.
Audience member Verna Johnson seemed like a typical Seger fan.
"I'm 65 years old and I've always loved him," said Johnson, shortly before Seger sang "Rock and Roll Never Forgets."
"I'm a great-grandmother, but I had to come out. His voice is just like it always was."
Bob Seger's working on his night moves
After a 10-year hiatus to raise his two kids, the classic rocker has finally returned to the road. Guess who talked him into it?
"My voice sounds like crap now," Bob Seger proclaimed.
It was the morning after the fourth concert of his first tour in 10 years. He'd just woken up. On stage, however, his voice is "holding up really good," he said. "It's actually getting stronger every night, believe it or not."
The 61-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer drinks Throat Coat tea and takes a mucous-dissolving product -- but "that's probably way too much information," he said with a joyous phlegm-filled cackle that resonated down in his belly.
After the long hiatus, Seger has developed a new routine for gig days: Wake up at 8:30, take care of business, maybe nap, see the kids after school, fly to the gig on a private plane, do sound-check, eat dinner, nap again, loosen up, drink his tea, perform, fly home, fall asleep by 3 a.m. or so.
"I just don't do well in hotels," he said from his home in suburban Detroit. "West Virginia last night was like 55 minutes home. The big thing is making sure I get enough sleep."
It wasn't the rabid fans who got Seger to return to the road. It wasn't the drooling promoters, who knew he'd be playing sold-out concerts like the one Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center. And it wasn't his always- willing Silver Bullet Band.
It was his kids, the same two people who got him to voluntarily quit touring in 1996 to become a full-time father.
For years, Cole, 13, and Samantha, 11, have heard about Dad the Rock Star. In 2004 they saw him play a couple of songs when he was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame, and they watched him sing "Rock & Roll Never Forgets" at a Kid Rock gig in Detroit last year.
Seger said they told him: "Gee, Dad, you've got a new album. We want to hear it live."
Before he agreed to undertake the tour, he went to see his doctor. The only issue was a little arthritis in his lower left back. A little ibuprofen and some stretching, and he's good to go.
"I'm just grateful that I'm not passing out up there," he joked. "Physically, I'm feeling good."
Even though it was obvious at his Hall of Fame performance that he was not in shape for the stage, he didn't do any special regimen in the gym.
"I really just rehearsed," he said. "That's the best because those are the muscles you use. Just a lot of long rehearsals.
"My wind is good. I'm amazed at that. Everything is going along rather well."
In the decade between the new disc "Face the Promise" and his last album, 1995's "It's a Mystery," Seger said he never stopped writing songs. Last year, he went to Nashville to record. He was joined by Detroit rap-rocker Kid Rock, who had given Seger's Hall of Fame induction speech, and country singer Patty Loveless, one of Seger's long-time favorites.
The new album debuted at No. 4 and has gone gold. One rock number, "Wreck the Heart," has received airplay on rock stations, and a ballad, "Wait for Me," has been aired on adult pop stations.
The tunes also have gotten some play on country radio. "Real Mean Bottle," a Vince Gill-penned raveup featuring Kid Rock, sounds like a can't-miss country hit. Seger, who received country play for such pop hits as "Fire Lake,"Against the Wind" and "Shame on the Moon," thinks he might release it as a country single next summer -- especially if he goes on tour with Kid Rock, as the younger Detroit hero has suggested.
But Seger is not thinking that far ahead. He initially planned only 21 concerts over two months but now the tour has been extended into next year. "It's a little daunting, knowing that we're doing close to 50 gigs," he said. "I'm trying to get into that mindset."
Will this be his last tour?
"I don't think like that," said the silver-haired rocker, who did his first tour in 1966. "I never say never. And I go day to day. Right now, I'll be done the middle of March, and I'll rest for a month and see if I want to do it again."
In concert, Seger is doing at least five songs from the new CD. Of course, he's also offering a generous selection of the hits that made him a classic-rock staple in the 1970s and '80s -- "Night Moves,"Old-Time Rock & Roll,"Against the Wind" and "Katmandu."
Seger is getting two thumbs up from his kids, who have seen two shows. "They're really digging it," he said, and he hopes to take them on the road every weekend.
Backed by a horn section, Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer and mainstays of the Silver Bullet Band, Seger claims that the current show is longer than the one on his 1996 tour. There is a short intermission designed for Seger's priorities.
"My wife says it's not long enough: 'You don't give women a chance to go to the bathroom,' " he said with a cackle. "I have to change clothes; I get so wet [from sweat] up there. That's the reason we do an intermission."
Has he cut back on his smoking habit?
"Heck, no," he said with a cackle. "Me and Jim Leyland, the [Detroit] Tigers manager -- we're chimneys. I am trying to cut back a little bit, and it's not working."
People who saw Seger sing "America the Beautiful" before the first World Series game between the Tigers and the Cardinals might have noticed his tobacco-stained teeth.
"Oh, yeah," he said without missing a beat. "I had to get them whitened a little bit. Even whitening them, it's just a slightly lighter shade of yellow."
He burst into a big, long laugh.
by Jon Bream
"Still the Same": "The 'Baby, baby, you're still the same' doesn't lay with me anymore," he said. "It's a little bit lightweight, although people love the song. The background bothers me. So I didn't work that one up." "Her Strut": "We worked it up. 'Her Strut' sounds real thunderous. The thing that bothers me is that I just don't sing it so well because I'm older." "Like a Rock": "It's a been-there, done-that kind of thing. People have certainly heard it enough" in the old Chevy truck ad.
[Seger File Note: By at least one report, Seger played "Still the Same" in Knoxville...so either the report is wrong, or perhaps he's given the song a second chance since giving this interview.]
Seger never forgets how to rock
REVIEW: The silvery Hall of Famer from Detroit served up quintessential Midwestern rock 'n' roll before a capacity crowd that looked a lot like him.
So he's a little bit older and a lot less svelte than he used to be.
Yes, "sweet 16's turned 61," Bob Seger sang in a reworked lyric in 1979's "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" Tuesday night at sold-out Xcel Energy Center.
He has aged like other baby boomers -- gray hair, silver beard, glasses, a middle-aged paunch. In fact, you could've looked around the arena and easily spotted someone who looked a bit like Seger -- save for that dorky headband he put on a few songs into the show.
Despite a 10-year layoff to raise his two kids, Seger, 61, hasn't forgotten how to thrill an arena audience with quintessential Midwestern rock 'n' roll. At night's end, he looked as happy as the boisterous 17,000 fans.
Seger isn't like the other 60-something Rock and Roll Hall of Famers who have played in the Twin Cities this year. He's not as intellectual as Paul Simon, as political as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young or as transcendent as Bob Dylan. Seger, who was as friendly and chatty as your next-door neighbor, is the musical equivalent of comfort food, an Everyman who serves meat-and-potatoes rock -- seasoned with a little folk, country and R&B -- that reenforces who we are and where we come from.
Backed by the expanded 14-member Silver Bullet Band (several of whose members still have their 1980s hairdos), Seger offered 25 songs in two sets over 21Ú4 hours. A heavy smoker like Dylan, Seger needed a handful of songs to shake the nicotine-induced hoarseness from his raspy voice.
Midway through the opening set, "Old Time Rock and Roll" revved up the crowd as Seger strutted around the stage with Ozzy Osbourne-like mincing steps, punching his fists into the air. (Seger will never have to worry about being invited to participate in "Dancing with the Stars"; he dances just like the guys in his audience.)
But the highlights were two numbers for which he sat at the grand piano -- the sentimental ballad "We've Got Tonight" and "Turn the Page," a moody, bluesy meditation about life on the road.
After an improbably short intermission of nine minutes, Seger started the second set off on the wrong foot with "Simplicity," a disco rock strut from his new CD "Face the Promise" (all six of the new numbers sounded strikingly familiar).
But then suddenly Seger and the band -- as well as the crowd (must have been the beer) -- kicked into a new gear with "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," his greasy rock-funk first hit from 1968. Propelled by Craig Frost's piano, Seger turned Chuck Berry's "C'est La Vie" into a swinging wall-of-sound New Orleans celebration. The Detroit hero delivered the southern soul-styled "Sunspot Baby" with an infectious blend of fun and funky attitude.
And then it was party time with a string of classics, including the hard-driving "Katmandu," the sweetly seductive "Night Moves," the propulsive "Hollywood Nights" and the reaffirming "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," which proved that rock 'n' roll, like Seger, is ageless.
A 10-year vacation, it seems, works wonders.
Detroit native Bob Seger returned from his decade-long sabbatical Tuesday night when he drew a sold-out and deliriously happy crowd of more than 17,000 to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Seger took the extended break following the birth of his two kids, not to mention the soft sales of his early-'90s albums. That time away ramped up expectations among his still considerable fan base, who snatched up the vast majority of those 17,000-plus tickets the first day they went on sale. It also gave Seger a certain mystique that has long since dissipated for some of his legacy-squandering peers.
Not that Seger came off as superhuman, ageless rocker, a la Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger. If anything, at 61, the guy felt more approachable and genuine than ever, every bit the Midwestern Bruce Springsteen. One could sense his humanity and a touch of fragility -- the mid-set intermission gave him time to change his sweaty clothing, catch his breath and then pollute it with a quick nicotine fix.
A famous and unrepentant smoker, Seger always was known for his throaty, gruff voice, and it's only grown richer with age. That gave classic, if lyrically breezy, songs like "Night Moves" and "We've Got Tonight" newfound depth. These numbers somehow felt more meaningful coming from a weathered AARP member rather than a 30-year-old, long-haired stud.
Often, his durable catalog of hits was almost chilling, from the unforgettable saxophone licks of "Mainstreet" to the life-on-the-road-is-lonely melodrama of "Turn the Page." The crowd reacted in kind, whooping and hollering with what felt like twice the enthusiasm of the 'tween-age crowd that saw the Cheetah Girls in the same venue a few weeks back. Indeed, every time Seger stopped singing during the aforementioned "Turn the Page," the audience cheered with the sort of giddy, lusty pleasure one can't fake.
It's tempting to make a joke about how Seger's new songs like the ballad "Wait for Me" -- which he said he wrote for his kids -- aren't sturdy enough to back truck commercials, but they'd at least pass muster hawking life insurance or mutual funds. The thing is, Seger's recent material mostly held its own among the barnburners, elevating the two-hour show past mere nostalgia into something much more satisfying, honest and truly exhilarating.
The phrases "rock star" and "good parent'' rarely go together. Bob Seger is an exception.
Seger can be labeled many things: a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee; a songwriter whose music helped sell pickup trucks; a two-time winner of the Port Huron-to-Mackinac Island sailboat race; and a motorcycle enthusiast. The most important role Seger plays, however, is that of a darn good dad.
Following a successful tour in 1996, Seger abandoned the concert trail and became a stay-at-home father. He and his wife, Nita, have two children -- Cole and Samantha.
Seger may have retreated from the public eye, but as he once wrote, "Rock and Roll Never Forgets.'' Backed by the Silver Bullet Band, Seger will play the Allstate Arena on Thursday night.
"I never thought I'd be out here again,'' Seger, 61, said during a phone call from his home in the Detroit suburbs. "I tried taking my kids on the road for the last tour, when my son was 3 and a half years old and my daughter was 1. We didn't have to worry about school back then, but soon they would be going to preschool. I said, 'I want to be around. I want to help out.'''
So Seger became what he calls "an ensconced dad.'' Although the Michigan native occasionally recorded songs for special projects, he didn't release a studio album for 11 years. Seger ended the drought in September with "Face the Promise,'' which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Seger wrote 60 songs for the album before selecting the dozen that made the final cut. "When you become a parent, you start thinking about the future,'' Seger said. "You stop thinking about the past, and you start thinking about your kids' future. So a lot of the songs on this album are kind of a sly way of me giving a little advice to my kids.''
The critically acclaimed disc contains songs that address topics such as global warming ("Between''), rampant consumerism ("Are You'') and Alzheimer's disease ("The Long Goodbye''). The track "No More'' makes a comparison between the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq.
"I came up with the chorus first: 'I've had enough, no more,''' Seger recalled. "I fit the chords and it was angry like a rock song, but I didn't know what I was talking about. It took me about two minutes to figure out, 'Oh, I know what I'm mad about.' These guys should be coming home. I was pretty proud of [Rep.] Jack Murtha, an ex-Marine who's been in combat, for standing up last year and saying, 'Bring them home.' That's basically my position. I think the next president is going to be picked by the best withdrawal strategy.''
Seger has sung about soldiers before. In 1968, he released an antiwar single titled "2 + 2 = ?'' The next year, Seger had his first top-20 hit with a much lighter song, "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man,'' which he plays on his current tour.
As was the case with Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick, Seger's big break came in the form of a live album. In April 1976, Seger released "Live Bullet,'' which cracked the top 40 on the album charts. Six months later, the studio album "Night Moves'' came out, and the Seger juggernaut was under way.
For the next 10 years, he had numerous hit singles, including "Still the Same,'' "Hollywood Nights,'' "Fire Lake'' and "Against the Wind.'' Seger's music was featured in the blockbuster films "Risky Business'' and "Beverly Hills Cop II.'' He's sold nearly 50 million albums.
His ultra-infectious "Like a Rock'' was used in TV ads for Chevrolet trucks for 12 years. Seger initially denied the request to use his song, but then an autoworker approached him in a restaurant and asked why he had never done an ad for an auto manufacturer. Seger changed his mind, and the resulting ad campaign was a phenomenal success.
"It worked out well for Chevy, which works out well for my state,'' explained Seger, who grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich. "It works out well for the workers who are in the factories. That was really the bottom line for me. I'm from here. If the 'Big Three' auto companies catch a cold, then the state gets pneumonia. Economically, everything is tied in to them around here.''
Seger has concert dates scheduled through February 2007. Pollstar, a trade publication that covers the concert industry, has a chart with a "power index,'' which tracks the number of fan requests for an act's tour itinerary. For the week ending Nov. 17, Seger was No. 1 on the Pollstar Top 50.
Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar's editor in chief, isn't surprised by the level of interest in the tour. "Seger might be surprised because he's been away for so long, and he might have wondered how relevant he was for today's audience,'' Bongiovanni said from his office in Fresno, Calif. "Bob essentially had retired and gone fishing. He's one of the acts that hasn't toured in a long time, and he's one of the real staples of the industry, so it's nice to see him come back.''
Bongiovanni also explained that according to Pollstar's database, Seger played 64 shows in 1996, selling 922,484 tickets, with gross ticket sales of $26.3 million. "Those are very good numbers,'' Bongiovanni added.
So after a decade of living the quiet life of a family man, why did Seger return to the spotlight?
"It was my kids,'' Seger said. "They were the final straw. They didn't remember the last tour, and they really wanted to see me play. They'd been hearing about it for years and years. They actually came to the first two shows, which were in Grand Rapids and Saginaw [Mich., on Nov. 8 and 10]. They were just knocked out. 'You're awesome, Dad,' my 14-year-old son says, and that's the best thing in the world.''
"Rock 'n' roll never forgets."
Taken from the title of one of Bob Seger's biggest hits, this line has appeared in an astounding number of reviews of the Michigan rocker's first tour since 1996 and stories about "Face the Promise," his first album in 11 years.
It's a hoary cliche, but Seger's earnest, crowd-pleasing, Midwestern meat-and-potatoes arena anthems inspire such fist-pumping hyperbole. And his performance Thursday night at a sold-out Allstate Arena proved that he's worthy of it.
The 61-year-old singer may have lost a bit of his already gruff voice during the long sabbatical, when he traded the spotlight for the role of what he calls "an ensconced dad," staying home to be part of his two kids' lives. But otherwise, he didn't miss a step as he returned to the stage.
Fronting a 10-piece version of his long-standing Silver Bullet Band, including fellow Michigan legend and Grand Funk Railroad veteran Don Brewer on drums, and augmented by the four-piece Motor City Horns, Seger delivered a 21Ú2-hour mix of his '70s and '80s hits ("Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight," "Horizontal Bop," "Katmandu" and even 1968's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man") and much less familiar but similarly constructed songs from his new album ("Face the Promise," "Wreck This Heart," "Answer's in the Question").
There were no theatrics, no surprises -- or none more dramatic than his cover of Chuck Berry's "C'est La Vie" -- and there was certainly nothing new. Seger's musical aesthetic remains firmly rooted in the '50s, with hints of Motown and Stax/Volt, but no stylistic innovations fresher than 1976's "Live Bullet."
"Call me a relic call me what you will/Call me old-fashioned, call me over the hill/Today's music ain't got the same soul/Give me that old time rock 'n' roll," as he sang in another of his more cheerfully rollicking hits.
Yeah, ol' Bob can be cheesy at times, especially on the big, sweeping ballads like "We've Got Tonight" and "Turn the Page." He crossed the line from earnest to Hallmark card-banal while introducing the new "No Matter Who You Are" and urging us all to "hold on to what makes you special." And sax man Alto Reed could be the hammiest boob ever to pick up that oft-abused instrument.
But for my money, I'll take a strong Seger show -- which Thursday undeniably was -- over a run-of-the-mill Bruce Springsteen set any day. Unlike the Boss, Bob isn't aspiring to craft Important Art or make a Grand Statement. He's just playing the sort of music he loves, and he's arguably as good at it today as he ever was.
That shouldn't come as a surprise; you know what they say about rock 'n' roll and forgetting.
This was arena rock the old-school way. You could tell, because the lighters far outnumbered the cell phones when it came time to decorate the joint in honor of another classic song that evoked the feeling of being young, restless and bored in 1962.
Bob Seger was the perfect host for such a gathering. At the sold-out Allstate Arena Thursday, the Detroit hard rock 'n' soul warrior wore the years with affable pride. He has gone gray, he wears glasses and a few extra pounds, and his black T-shirt, blue jeans and headband might as well have been a business suit.
"Sweet 16's turned 61!" the 61-year-old Seger roared with a smile during "Rock and Roll Never Forgets." After a decade away from the road to help rear his children, the singer has returned with a solid album, "Face the Promise," and the grit still clinging to his voice. But he never really went away. His hits collections remain perennial best sellers, and his songs have become part of the fabric of at least two generations. From "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" to "Roll Me Away," with stops in between for "Night Moves," "Hollywood Nights," "Old Time Rock and Roll" and "Katmandu," Seger roared the blue-collar blues.
The set list occasionally lagged when he leaned too heavily on songs from "Face the Promise" and resurrected "Satisfied," a love song tacked on to "Greatest Hits 2." But otherwise, it was a two-hour-plus concert devoted to durable songs about misfits and vagabonds, the type of characters who value freedom over success. The first set closed with three of the best road songs ever written: "Travelin' Man," "Beautiful Loser" and especially "Turn the Page," with Seger at the piano and Alto Reed blowing bittersweet empathy on the sax.
Early on, he revisited his cover of Chicagoan Otis Clay's old soul hit, "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You." With a five-piece horn section and three backing singers joining a rocking rhythm section, Seger affirmed that he has always been steeped in R&B and Motown as much as Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones.
"Just pull those old records off the shelf, I'll sit here and listen to them by myself," Seger sang. Those old records, with their emphasis on groove and unvarnished directness, are the foundation of his 40-year career. Along the way, he became a great songwriter by writing about characters essentially like himself: The son of a factory worker who lived in near poverty after his father left home, then found a way out.
The line between the characters in the songs and the performer on the stage melted away. Seger's made his millions, but he still looked and sounded like he'd be right at home at the end of the bar with a beer in hand, a few stories to tell and a motorcycle waiting for him outside.
"Has it really been 32 years since 'Live Bullet'?" Bob Seger asked his audience at the Allstate Arena Thursday.
Yes it has. Yet that anniversary proved not so significant compared to some of the early era songs Seger pulled out of his trick bag on this, his first tour in 10 years.
The Michigan native and arena rocker, who dominated album-oriented radio in the 1970's and early 1980's, revealed his true roots during the two-hour, 15-minute show.
Before his star rose due to his husky power ballads and good-time rock anthems, Seger belonged to the first generation of Detroit garage rock, a graduating class that included Mitch Ryder, The Sonics and The MC5. Acknowledging that he also couldn't fathom that it was nearly 38 years since he produced "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," his first hit single, Seger, proceeded to play the 1969 nugget with timeless gusto, demonstrating that underneath the sentiments of the monster hits that came later was a rock veteran who could still snap to the basics and make it sound raw.
Like a certain auto manufacturer his song "Like a Rock" once represented (and was not performed Thursday), Seger represents solid, no-frills, reliable rock and soul, a quotient that continues to make shows like this sell out many years after he dominated the charts. The reason has less to do with what he brings to the table (no surprises there) than with a core spirit mainstream rock has lacked since it splintered into a hybrid of genres and MTV made ironic detachment a cultural standard.
Seger made repeated jabs at his age - "sweet 16's turned 61," he adlibbed for a laugh during "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" - but time seemed to freeze during the 25 songs he played. If the haircuts (feathered coifs, mullets, man ponytails) of his band didn't make that clear, then the rotation of black headbands Seger strapped to his head did. Even though his staple hit "Old time Rock and Roll" wished for the uncomplicated days of the 45-single, the band's choreographed moves and a mid-song clap-along made that fantasy not so tantalizing.
What makes Seger's songs so endurable is that, like Steven Speilberg's Hollywood suburbia, they articulate the mundane details of everyday life and attend to them with romantic optimism. He's a sincere populist and sang each song while smiling. His 15-member band (including the four-member Motor City Horns) provided a wide, cheery sound, faithfully replicating every recorded note. On "Night Moves," even the famous silences were perfectly timed. The new - and quite good - songs of "Face the Promise" (Capitol), his recent album, also went for the familiar, mostly because they are derived from the same source.
Seger played piano for his ballads, strummed an acoustic guitar and when his hands were free, he struck the same clunky dance moves anyone in his audience would have matched. "I'm older now, but still running against the wind," he sang. Whether or not that was the case wasn't up for discussion. So, once more, he answered with a smile.
A new page
In 1996, after completing a long string of sold-out shows in Detroit, Bob Seger ducked out of the music business for a very un-rockstar reason: to raise his children.
"After that last tour, my kids were 3 1/2 and 1, and I felt that, with them growing up, touring was not the way to live," Seger, 61, told The Star recently. "I didn't want to miss them growing up. I wanted to be an active parent."
So he virtually disappeared, reducing his presence in pop culture to classic-rock radio and to television, where his hit "Like a Rock" became a jingle for Chevy trucks for what seemed like half a decade. And for nearly 10 years, he was a doting stay-at-home dad.
But once his kids, Cole and Samantha, started school full time, Seger picked up his hobby again: writing songs and preparing for that inevitable day when he'd return to the road and be a rock star again.
That day arrived early this month.
On Nov. 8, Seger and his Silver Bullet band launched their North American tour in Grand Rapids, Mich., a three-hour drive west of his hometown. Like the four shows in Detroit at the end of December, the two Grand Rapids shows (plus one in Saginaw) were virtual and immediate sell-outs.
"I think between the four shows, there are 120 single tickets left, so you can still go if you don't mind going by yourself," Seger said, breaking into laughter.
His voice these days sounds heavily tarred-and-nicotined -- he's a "chimney" like his friend (and Detroit Tigers manager) Jim Leyland, he said -- but after seven live shows, he thinks he is singing just fine.
He admitted that he's not in the physical shape he was in even as a 51-year-old, when he withdrew from the rock world so he could drive his kids to school and back. But, overall, his return to the limelight has been smooth and successful, and he has the numbers to prove it.
His new album, "Face the Promise," was released in early October, and it is already fast approaching gold status. As of Nov. 5, according to Nielsen/SoundScan, sales have exceeded 425,000 copies. That same week, nearly 10,000 people bought copies of his 12-year-old "Greatest Hits" compilation, raising its sales total to nearly 7.8 million copies.
Seger attributes some of the success of the new album and the tour to his long absence.
"We haven't been out doing a greatest-hits tour every summer, so a tour like this seems more exclusive or rare -- um, I guess," he said, breaking (again) into a gust of self-effacing laughter, one symptom of what his fans have remained so fond of.
Even over the telephone, Seger conveys the rustbelt accents and mannerisms of his birthplace (Dearborn, to be exact): the long, hard vowels ("car" sounds more like "kear"), the no-frills vocabulary, the lack of gloss or pretense. (Think of John Goodman's character on "Rosanne.")
Asked what he was most concerned about before starting this tour, he said: "The physical part. I'm 61 now, and I didn't know whether I'd be physically capable. You can rehearse your brains out, but the second you get out on stage and add the hot lights, the volume of the crowd -- it's way more strenuous."
That blue-collar persona has served him well. Seger had been kicking around the Midwest for years, trying to make a living as a rock/soul singer before he got his first big commercial break.
In 1976, cuts from his "Live Bullet" album became a mainstay on what is now considered "classic rock" radio, especially in the Midwest and FM rock stations like KSHE in St. Louis and KYYS here in Kansas City.
The follow-up to that record was "Night Moves," a studio album that featured narrative ballads like the title track and "Main Street" -- songs that inspired some favorable comparisons to other songwriters. A Rolling Stone critic called Seger a romantic and a realist, "a sort of Springsteen without the vast sweep of the Boss' vision."
Not so coincidentally, when "Night Moves" came out, Springsteen was vision-impaired. Embroiled in a bitter legal dispute, he hadn't released an album since "Born to Run," a gap of nearly three years.
Into that vacuum, like it or not, slipped Seger, at least temporarily. He would sustain that "romantic/realist," working-class image with simple, earnest ballads such as "Against the Wind," "Still the Same" and "Turn the Page," which chronicled life on the road, away from home, friends and family.
By the mid-1990s Seger was wealthy but increasingly less successful and less relevant to contemporary music. His last show in Kansas City was June 13, 1996, at what was then called Sandstone Amphitheatre. By year's end, he'd called it quits and left one family -- his band and road crew -- to be with his real one, a decision no doubt influenced by his own upbringing: When Seger was 12, his father abandoned him, his mother and brother.
This year he started missing his other family. So he cut his first studio album since 1995's "It's a Mystery," and, with the blessing of his nearly adolescent children, assembled a band and launched a tour. In all three processes, he has been helped by friendships and connections sustained during his long hiatus.
"I'm lucky: A real good friend is president of my record company," he said. "Back in the mid-'80s, when I was out in Los Angeles making records, I used to pal around with Don Henley and Stan Lynch when he was Tom Petty's drummer and a guy named Andy Slater. Well, Andy is now the president of my record label (Capitol)."
It's hardly a matter of luck. Even as he got wealthy and famous, Seger stuck with those who helped him get there. So his band is full of familiar names and faces, too: Alto Reed, who has been with Seger for 31 years, Chris Campbell (33 years), Craig Frost (25 years), Shaun Murphy (27 years) and background singer Laura Creamer: "She sang with me on 'Ramblin' Gamblin' Man' when I recorded it in 1966," he said.
Seger is so fond of them that he politely sidesteps a question so he can resume talking about his music support.
"I'm sorry to keep going on the band, but we got more people to mention, like the Motor City Horns," he said. "At some point, there are about 15 people up there. We even got a crew guy playing keyboard."
By the time he hits Kansas City on Saturday, Seger and crew will have 10 shows under their belt and 10 more on the itinerary before year's end. He has managed to remain something of a family man even on tour, flying home after shows (which are at least two days apart).
He will end the first leg with four shows in 10 days at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the suburbs of Detroit. According to the Web site SegerBob.com, the first show sold out in three minutes, the second in 15.
"It's always thrilling to play there," Seger said. "We have a history of that. It's our base. People are very passionate about us there. The ties run very deep."
It's the perfect setting for him: surrounded by old friends, familiar faces and family.
Your new records has received favorable reviews. Most reviewers seem pleasantly surprised at how strong it sounds, given you haven't made a record in 12 years.
I worked really hard on it. Like you said, I had about 10 years to work on it. I've had the same engineer for 30 years, David Cole. We work together really well and have grown in our own ways, he as engineer, me as a songwriter. I like to think I've kept it up. It's hard to reach those peaks I had in the '70s. I don't want to rewrite the stuff. I wanted to do something differently with the record and I think I did. It was fun to do and I was proud of it when I heard it.
What has changed the most in the record industry over past 10 years?
I think the biggest change has been the relentless promotion. I see someone like Gretchen Wilson doing promotion literally day and night for a year and a half ... because that's what they want you to do.
I can't do all that stuff; I have to save my voice. But if you're willing to do it, they'll promote you day and night. It didn't use to be that way; you didn't have to worry so much about that stuff. But I'm listening to the company. I've been on TV ...
How about radio? Has classic-rock embraced the new album?
Technically there not supposed to; they're supposed to wait a few years. That's what classic rock is supposed to be: classic rock! But some of the stations are bending the rules a bit for us. We've also had some luck on A/C (adult contemporary) and rock. "Wreck This Heart" went to No. 3 on rock and "Wait for Me" made the Top 10 on A/C, so we've had some good luck on radio so far. But you know what's so different, I read that from September on about 100 albums will come out before Christmas. There's a lot of traffic out there.
What's most different about the road and touring?
The surprises have all been good and positive. Technology is so much better than it was 10 years ago. The PAs, the wireless mics sound infinitely better. I always thought there was no way I'd use a wireless mic; I never liked how they sound. But they sound great; so does the wireless technology on some of the instruments. Plus we're playing in a lot of new buildings -- we've been gone so long they tore down buildings to put up new ones!
How gratifying is it to tour again?
I don't think I realized how much fun it was until we hit the road again -- working with the band, being on stage.
How much did you rehearse before the tour?
We started about five and a half weeks before the first show. We played all kinds of stuff and got our chops back. Some came back fast. The new stuff took a while more to learn. ... We wanted to do some surprise stuff: some songs we've never done, some songs we haven't done for years. We've rehearsed abut 40 to 45 songs; we do 25 to 26 songs each show. But the show is getting longer as we go. There are so many things we want to play.
Any initial doubts about playing live?
Only physically, not mentally. I'm 61 and I didn't know whether I'd be physically able. You can rehearse your brains out. but the second you get out on stage and add the hot lights, the volume of the crowd -- it's way more strenuous. You have to fight to hear yourself over the echo, the crowd singing along and the volume of what's going on around you. Rehearsal doesn't prepare you for that. The first night out I got kind of tired, but I've been fine since. ... The voice is holding up good,. That's what five and a half weeks of rehearsal will do. It's like exercising a muscle. Even the high notes are coming back.
You'll be here the first weekend in December. People are excited; ticket sales have been robust.
I love Kansas City and Kemper Arena. Whenever we're in town we'd say, "OK, we're in Kansas City; we got to get a steak."
Kemper Arena was supposed to be crowded all weekend. Then Mother Nature (or some other eminent power) interfered, unleashing some icy weather that postponed the Bill Gaither revival scheduled for Friday night. It didn't, however, get in the way of the Bob Seger concert Saturday, which erupted into an evangelical event of its own.
Seger hasn't been on the road in 10 years, and his absence has aroused something deeper than just reverence or nostalgia for his music. He's not Springsteen -- and he's not trying to be -- but he generates the same loyal and fervent response to his music. Attribute some of that loyalty to his band, which is stocked with plenty of names his fans will never forget. Foremost among them: Alto Reed, Seger's own "big man," who can still handle a sax that must equal (if not exceed) his own weight.
The show wasn't flawless, but it came close. The slightest moments of his two-hour set came when Seger played songs off "Face the Promise," his latest record. He did five cuts from that album, and most fit right in with the rest of his material; none of it, however, got the same fervent response. But that should be expected from a guy who can unleash so much classic-rock gold: "Main Street," "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll," "Katmandu" and "Night Moves," which opened his encore.
The best part of the evening, though, was the end of his first set, when Seger and his band steamrolled through "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight," then "We've Got Tonight" and "Turn the Page" -- two archetypal power ballads -- and then the one-two punch from "Live Bullet": "Travelin' Man/Beautiful Loser," which sounded, note for note, almost exactly like they did 30 years ago.
His 10-year hiatus did more than give Seger a chance to bond with his children; it also gave his voice a vacation (despite his cigarette habit).
For most of his 23-song set on Saturday, Seger sounded a lot like the guy who was all over FM radio from the late 1970s and onward, even during "Rock 'n' Roll Never Forgets," which he has reworked: "Now sweet 16 has turned 61." It's a stock line that's heavier than it is cute.
Kemper on Saturday night was packed and loud and raucous, like a playoff sporting event -- a sign that a lot of people have figured out that real rock 'n' roll has less to do with chronological age than it does with quality and durability.
Road warrior Bob Seger was a "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" for most of three decades -- a hitmaker with a heartland attitude and a loyal following. Then he all but disappeared.
Now, the voice of "Night Moves," "Katmandu," "Like a Rock" and "Turn the Page" is back after spending the past decade at home with his wife and two young children. His fine new CD, "Face the Promise," is his biggest seller since "Like a Rock" in 1986. And he's back on stage -- a ramblin' family man who's been jetting home after each show during the Midwestern leg of a tour that comes to Scottrade Center on Monday night.
"I wrote songs for 10 years and watched my kids grow up," Seger, 61, said by phone recently from his "writing house" north of his home near Detroit. It's an off-day between shows in Milwaukee and Indianapolis, and the veteran rocker is at ease, open and warm, often breaking into a full-throated gravelly laugh.
"When you have kids, your future doesn't matter so much as theirs, and I was thinking about things that will affect them, like the ecology and rampant consumerism and war," Seger says. The new CD is meant as "on the sly" advice from Dad to Samantha, 11, and Cole, 14.
"The crux of it is: Keep what's special about you and don't let the big machine change it, because they will try to change it." So, Seger tries to keep it grounded for his kids.
An icon in Michigan, he has resisted moving to music centers such as Los Angeles or Nashville, Tenn., where he recorded "Face the Promise."
"I'm calling this the 'Kitchen Tour' because my wife is building a new kitchen," he says, laughing. "When the kids are (older), we want them to be able to come back to the same house. We're firmly planted here."
Taking as little as two years off between CDs is a risk in pop music, but Seger says he just didn't think about how fans would react to his absence. He says he worked four or five hours a day on his songs, interruptible by family obligations. He made only rare outings to perform -- at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, at Vince Gill's annual golf tournament, or with buddy and fellow Detroiter Kid Rock.
"So I finally finished the album, and we'll let the chips fall where they may," he says. "I don't know if (radio will) play it. I just do what I do and hope people want to hear it."
Judging from the strong annual sales of his two "Greatest Hits" packages, people still do want to hear it. And "Face the Promise" is classic Seger, with no attempts to incorporate any of the grunge, mainstream country, R&B or hip-hop sounds that have cycled up and down the charts since his previous CD, "It's a Mystery," was released in 1995.
What's different now? Not so much. The Silver Bullet Band is back together, featuring veteran members Alto Reid on sax, Chris Campbell on bass and Craig Frost on keyboards, as well as backup singers Shaun Murphy of Little Feat and Laura Creamer, who sang on "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" back in 1966.
But he's singing "sweet sixteen turns 61" in a self-referential tweak of the lyrics to the prescient "Rock n' Roll Never Forgets." And he's taking a short break midset to dry off and change clothes.
The set list includes, of course, "Old Time Rock and Roll," a song that will be played forever at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Seger says he can't even attend such an affair without the band inviting him up to do a verse or two.
"That song finds its way into everything," he says. "My son and two friends lip-synced 'Old Time' in a talent show at school when they were 7 years old." Then he laughs again.
"But I really love when old people come up and say they love that 'old fashioned' rock 'n' roll' song."
Rock 'n' roll never forgets, and neither do loyal, multigenerational Bob Seger fans who jammed Scottrade Center on Monday night to welcome back Seger and his Silver Bullet Band from a 10-year absence.
The veteran rocker, now 61, led his 13-member band through a 2 hour 15 minute performance of 24 songs, the vast majority of them timeless blue-collar, Midwestern anthems that had the crowd singing along -- aging boomers alongside thirtysomethings next to the young and pierced.
Despite occasionally muddy sound, the show marked a cathartic return for one of rock's greatest voices.
Seger, dressed in a black T-shirt, faded jeans and later a headband controlling his longish gray hair, took the stage to Thin Lizzy's "Boys Are Back in Town" and said only, "Good to see ya," before launching into "Roll Me Away," punching the air with his right fist.
Longtime saxman Alto Reed prowled the stage under a huge bass saxaphone, blowing a meaty foundation for the band, which features Grand Funk expats Don Brewer on drums and Craig Frost on keyboards, and the twin-guitar attack of Jim "Moose" Brown and Mark Chatfield.
"Face the Promise," Seger's solid new CD, was liberally represented by seven numbers, including four during the first set and three in a row: the rocking title song sandwiched by ballads "Wait for Me" and "No Matter Who You Are." The unfamiliar material put the up-and-dancing crowd back in their seats, something that wouldn't have happened 20 and 30 years ago when rock DJs routinely dug beyond the singles on Seger albums.
But it was those older tunes that the audience came to hear, and the Detroit-area native -- who never mentioned the Tigers-Cardinals World Series -- delivered. Seger alternated funk- and soul-flavored numbers such as "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" with elegant ballads such as "Turn the Page" that had lighters and cell-phone cameras held high, and on which he played acoustic guitar or piano. Seger and the Bullets, for one night anyway, also freed "Old Time Rock & Roll" from wedding-band purgatory.
With the four-man Motor City Horns and glorious singers Shaun Murphy, Barbara Payton and Laura Creamer in support, Seger kicked up the pace in the second set with the 40-year-old "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," "Sunspot Baby," "Horizontal Bop" and "Katmandu" leading into a pair of two-song encores: "Night Moves" and "Hollywood Nights" followed by "Against the Wind" and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets."
Country rocker Eric Church opened and was politely received during his short set, which included his first hit single, "How 'Bout You," but ended oddly with the downer ballad "Lightning," about a guy keeping a date with the electric chair. As Chuck Berry wrote in the Seger-covered "C'Est La Vie," it goes to show you never can tell.
Bob Seger recorded his first album in 11 years in Nashville--but he didn't forget to rock
"Sweet 16's turned 31," a not-coincidentally 31-year-old Bob Seger sang on 1976's "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," as if all the good times were behind him. Three decades later, the now 61-year-old Seger's infectious, easy-rolling laugh suggests the good times are back. He just released his first album in 11 years, Face the Promise, recorded mostly at Music Row's Ocean Way studio using local session musicians instead of his erstwhile Silver Bullet Band. Seger worked on the album for several years, commuting back and forth from the home outside Detroit that he shares with wife Nita, son Cole and daughter Samantha.
Now the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has reconvened the Silver Bullet boys for his first tour since 1996, including a stop at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on Saturday. (Country up-and-comer Eric Church opens.) Seger has been playing to sellout crowds so far and Face the Promise has already sold over 400,000 copies, suggesting that rock 'n' roll indeed never forgets.
Scene: So where have you been for the last 11 years?
Bob Seger: Raising kids. They're 11 and 13 now, and they're getting pretty independent, which is exactly what we strove for. The last tour, my daughter was 1 and my son was 3-and-a-half. He barely remembers it.
Scene: Why did you decide to record in Nashville?
Seger: I grew up in a college town -- Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan is -- and Nashville is basically a college town, so it felt real familiar and comfortable to me. Add the nearness of it -- it's only about 500 miles away, so I could go down in the morning to a 10-to-2 session with the guys and be home that night with my wife and kids, listening to what we did. It was pretty cool.
Scene: Face the Promise is credited only to Bob Seger. What about the Silver Bullet Band?
Seger: Well, the stuff that we used happened to be all stuff that I cut with the studio cats, so it didn't make a lot of sense to call it a Silver Bullet album. I thought, "Well, this will be my Full Moon Fever" [Tom Petty's first album without the Heartbreakers]. It wasn't the fault of Silver Bullet in any way, shape or form. They're still playing great. It was just the luck of the draw.
Scene: How did those Music Row session guys adapt to playing your music?
Seger: I think they had fun, because they got to play stuff they don't normally get to play. I think they wanted to play rock 'n' roll. It's a fresh breeze for them. And they've got it in 'em .
Scene: The only cover on the album is a version of Vince Gill's "Real Mean Bottle," which you recorded as a duet with Kid Rock. Why that song?
Seger: I always buy all of Vince's records. I love his voice, and I love his style of singing. I think he's a great singer, great guitar player, great golfer, great everything. The guy is too gifted. I heard it as a duet for me and Bob [Kid Rock]. It's a song about Merle Haggard, so I knew he would love it because of his reverence for the old-time country masters. I had no idea it would end up to be a barn-burner rock 'n' roll song. (laughs) Kid Rock walked in and literally took the session over. He sped the song up about 60 beats a minute from where Vince wrote it, and the next thing you know, we had a totally different version from what I planned. We started at 11 a.m., and called Vince in the afternoon. He was there by 3, listened to it and gave us his blessing. He told us that the next day he was going to see Eric Clapton in England, and Eric was going to record one of his songs. He said, "Boy, I'm having a good week!" (laughs)
Scene: This is a pretty rockin' record all around. Why did it turn out that way?
Seger: The best songs [I wrote] were rock songs. It's simple as that.
Scene: You've said before that the up-tempo songs are the hardest ones to write.
Seger: Yeah. You ask Kid Rock what's the hardest thing he has to write, he'll tell you that it's the rap stuff, because there's so many lyrics, and it's hard to do anything new. I think that's true of rock 'n' roll, too. It's harder to come up with something rock 'n' roll that sounds fresh to me.
Scene: It seems like your lyrics have gotten more straightforward over the years.
Seger: Absolutely. That's part of being a parent, maybe. You have to be straightforward with your kids, and explain to them what you think is important when they ask you. I kinda like that. Get down to it and say it.
Scene: A lot of your classics from the 1970s and early '80s, like "Against the Wind" and "Night Moves," are very reflective. Why is that?
Seger: You know, I made it when I was 31, but I started playing when I was 21, so there were 10 years there where we just basically played live and didn't get a whole lot of record-company interest. We toured to live, or to eat. We made some records on the run, in between touring, but they didn't do anything at all. So by the time I made it, I was already somewhat mature.
Scene: Hardcore fans have clamored for years to get your early albums reissued on CD. One of them, Smokin' O.P.'s , was finally re-released last year. Will the rest ever see the light of day again?
Seger: Yeah, I think so. It was a contractual issue that had been sitting around for 15 years between Capitol [Records] and my management, and it was settled recently. That's definitely in the pipeline. I think they'll be able to be downloaded, too.
Scene: What changes have you noticed in your voice since those early days?
Seger: Oh, it's gotten a little lower. Joni Mitchell was my neighbor for six months in L.A., and she used to tell me, "Yeah, it's never gonna get higher again." (laughs) But it's not so low that it's horrible yet, thank goodness.
Scene: Chevy used your hit "Like a Rock" in its TV commercials for a decade. Did you ever get tired of hearing it yourself?
Seger: Yes I did, and yes, I would turn it off. We're not gonna play it live [on this tour]. We just have too many ballads. I don't wanna run the old stuff into the ground anymore -- I don't want it to be a greatest-hits show. But certain ones, you've gotta do 'em. Oh, man -- on the last tour, we tried for three nights not to do "Turn the Page," and my crew came to me and said, "We're in big trouble. At the end of the night we're getting so many complaints." It doesn't bother me. They're still fun to play.
Scene: You've got enough material to play for hours.
For Bob Seger, these are good days. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is touring in support of Face the Promise &emdash; his first album of new material in 11 years &emdash; and he's found ways to integrate his touring life with home time spent in Michigan with his two kids. Seger laughed often and easily during a phone conversation this week as he prepared to travel south for Saturday's show at Gaylord Entertainment Center.
You're known as a rock guy, and Face the Promise is decidedly a rock album. Why come to Nashville to record it?
It was convenience, because I have two kids at home and I wanted to be around them and not to have to travel to Detroit and back from California, but it was also because Nashville has great studios and great players. Glenn Worf was my main guy, and I love the way he plays bass, but it's hard to go wrong with any musician you find in Nashville. I'm going to call those guys that played on the record and see if they want tickets to the show. Hopefully, they'll come out.
Have the lines blurred between rock and country?
I hear a lot of Eagles influence, a lot of John Mellencamp's influence and some of my influence on country radio. A lot of times, our music was almost country in its approach, because I've always been a sucker for a great acoustic piano and guitar. That's just what I like. But I also love a blues-based, rock 'n' roll electric guitar.
How did you end up recording with Patty Loveless (on the duet "The Answer's in the Question")?
I've been buying her albums since day one. The first song of hers that knocked me out was "Half Over You" from her first album (in 1987). She and Vince Gill were the two who really brought me into country music. I fell under their spell, and I always wanted to do a duet with her.
In that song, you wrote "Will my critics be unkind?" Do you worry about how people perceive you and your music?
I wasn't thinking in terms of music critics, I was thinking in terms of life critics. But originally I had a different line there. I went to Patty's house and she was doing the vocals and we sang the other version, which said, "Are we born to gamble or live by grand design?" We did it that way, and I was getting to leave when I ran the other line by her, which said, "How will I be remembered? Will my critics be unkind?" She and Emory Gordy (Loveless' producer and husband) liked it that way better, and I think it's a better line.
Questioning your own lyrics is nothing new for you. I understand you initially didn't like the line "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then," from "Against the Wind."
Yeah, I thought that was really fractured English. I couldn't decide if it was really grammatically clumsy. Since then, I've seen it on coffee cups and stuff, and it has become one of the lines people thought was very, very good.
You're photographed on the album cover riding a Harley. Do you still ride much?
Yes, a lot. I ride a good 4,000 miles a year. I've got motorcycle boots with 22,000 miles on them. I love it. I've never laid a bike down, and I've been riding since 1967. I advocate motorcycle riding because it makes you a better car driver. You're always looking for an out, expecting somebody else to move into you. Unlike the album cover, I always wear a helmet. It's just that it doesn't make a good album cover if you have your helmet on.
Some performers say they like riding a motorcycle because it gives them an instant anonymity, even on crowded streets.
When I'm going through Michigan, where I'm well-known, I can ride and not be noticed. But riding is like therapy for me. Some people say it's as close as you can come to flying. I don't use a windshield. I like to get the whole feeling.
You'll be riding against the wind.
The Dixie Chicks have faced a lot of criticism for speaking out politically.
On the new album, your song "No More" is a strong statement against the Iraq war. Did you worry about a backlash when you recorded that song?
No, not the way things are today. It's time to bring the soldiers home. I'm proud of that song. It says what I wanted to say.
Through the years, "Like a Rock" has become as much a truck commercial as a rock hit. Do you ever regret allowing that song to be used to sell Chevy trucks?
I turned that commercial down for a year and a half, and one day an auto worker came up to me in a restaurant and said, "How come you never do anything for the auto companies? We need you." I thought my manager had planted that guy, or the ad agency had, but they didn't. I met the guy again years later and he said, "No, nobody planted me." I agreed to do the campaign, thinking it could help. Then the campaign became very successful. They told me it was testing something like 70 percent favorable, which they said were Michael Jordan-esque numbers. I never knew it would last so long. I never felt guilty about it. I think I felt kind of proud that they made a lot of money and it saved a lot of jobs. You know, GM gets a cold and the whole state gets pneumonia. But we don't do that song live anymore, because it was just beaten to death in the commercials. Enough is enough.
Bob Seger began his rock 'n' roll life as one of the toughest road warriors around, the kind of guy who would play anywhere at any time if he thought an audience was waiting. He spent a lot of time in Louisville, playing the clubs on Washington and Main streets with the Bob Seger System.
"Oh, I remember playing your clubs," the gregarious Seger said in a phone interview. "Yeah, that was fun. I used to play your clubs when Muhammad Ali was Cassius Clay -- wha-ha-ha-ha-ha -- that's a while back!"
His persistence paid off when, in 1976, he became one of the biggest acts in rock by releasing two hit albums within six months of each other -- "Live Bullet" and "Night Moves." Both remain staples of classic rock radio.
But a decade ago, Seger finally tired of life on the road and took a hiatus to spend more time with his family. Earlier this year, he announced a new album, "Face the Promise," and a tour with his Silver Bullet Band, which will bring him back to Louisville on Tuesday.
Going back on the road has been gratifying, he said, but has also taken some adjustment.
"It's a little like getting back on a bike -- you learn to pace yourself," said Seger, 61. "Some of the older songs when I do them, it's no problem. I don't have any problem with the lyrics. The newer ones are the ones that give me fits."
"Face the Promise" is vintage Seger in most ways, with a sound not far removed from his early 1980s commercial peak. It's a sound that had largely fallen out of favor when Seger went into semi-retirement, even though his style is a touchstone for a lot of modern country music.
"I just know one way to write, I guess, and I try to stay true to it," he said. "I wrote a couple for the new album that were so familiar that I couldn't use them. They sounded like something off a greatest-hits album, so I had to leave them off. A little too close to the bone."
A native of Detroit who grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., Seger came of age when rock and rhythm & blues weren't too far apart. He listened to soul music on the mega-watt WLAC out of Nashville and patterned his singing after people such as Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding.
"That's why I was always able to get a gig in a band, 'cause there might be one guy in the band who sang pretty white and then they'd be looking for the guy who could do the R&B stuff, and that was me -- wah-ha-ha-ha-ha," he said. "When I was young, you literally couldn't tell me different from Otis."
Seger began hitting the road in the 1960s and released his first album in '69. He recorded seven more in the next six years, building a fan base that ignited with "Live Bullet" and exploded with "Night Moves." Seger was pretty much unstoppable after that, with three multiplatinum albums in a row: "Stranger in Town," "Against the Wind" and "Nine Tonight."
Even as Seger's album sales slumped in the late 1980s and early '90s, he remained a popular concert draw, and his 1994 "Greatest Hits" album sold 8 million copies. While on sabbatical, he didn't write as much as he listened.
"I think it was great for my songwriting," he said. "I listened and listened and listened. I went to Nashville where every third person is a songwriter -- the guy waiting on you might have written a song -- so just being around that was good."
Between the new songs and his hits, Seger said, it was tough making a set-list for his return tour.
Seger's an 'old relic' but neither he nor fans care
Bob Seger is a relic.
He's old-fashioned and over the hill, too.
It's OK. He said to call him that. Right in that song everyone fast-dances to with their aunt at their cousin's wedding.
All that stuff about Bob Seger is true, and that's why people love him enough to fill arenas all over the country, like the Mellon Arena Thursday night.
Returning to the stage after a decade-long retreat to raise his kids, Seger took his fans right back to the '70s, where they were perfectly happy to be.
While many of his contemporaries -- Springsteen, Mellencamp, etc. -- moved on to experiment with different sounds over the past decade or so, for the marketplace or their own sanity, Seger has always been the same: strictly meat and potatoes.
Seger showed up with a roadhouse-jukebox full of hits and a handful of new songs, like "Wreck This Heart," that sounded just like the old ones. He's got the right mix for a two-hour arena show, with Chuck Berry-style rockers ("Sunspot Baby," "Katmandu"), hearty midtempo fare ("Hollywood Nights," "Trying to Live My Life Without You") and a few power ballads ("We've Got Tonight" and "Mainstreet," a showcase for the savvy sax player).
Falling into that latter category was one of the evening's best-received songs, "Turn the Page," Seger's vivid portrayal of tour fatigue that allowed him to sing the line "Here I am/on the road again/here I am/up on the stage" to shouts and hollers. Actually, Seger, sitting at the piano, didn't even need to sing that one because everyone in the house obviously knew every word.
The production matched the no-nonsense quality of his old time rock 'n' roll. There were some stage lights and a simple red backdrop. No video screens, ramps, pyro or any of that Aerosmith stuff. The man himself, now sporting that fashionable silver hair all the kids (like Taylor Hicks) have, was wearing what he probably wears when he sits around and watches the Pistons -- black T, blue jeans, glasses and shoes that looked like slippers.
He split the show into two sets with an intermission that lasted long enough for you to make it to the end of the row and then go back to your seat. Set two had an amped-up rock 'n' roll feel from the tight six-piece Silver Bullet Band, three backup singers and four-piece horn section. They even went back to the source and threw in a rollicking version of Berry's "Never Can Tell."
In case the fans were feeling kind of frisky and youthful from the music, he shocked them back to reality with this intro to "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man": "Here's one from 38 years ago ..."
The one people were really waiting for came from 30 years ago -- "Night Moves," an acoustic rock classic that never gets old and, being a reflective song even then, works nicely in this phase of Seger's life.
Watching the old relic up there, it was hard not to think of grandpa getting up with the wedding band. But the voice is still husky and strong, the spirit is still generous and true, and, say this about Bob Seger: He doesn't try to be anything he's not.
Like a rock, man, like a rock.
Video screens were given the night off, and you'd have found more pyrotechnics in a bingo parlor.
Bob Seger didn't serve up visual flash Thursday, choosing to let the merits of his Mellon Arena concert rest squarely on the substance of his songs.
Smart move, as Seger's got a truckload of warm and friendly FM hits, and he played almost all of them to the pleasure of a predominantly middle-aged crowd of about 13,000. (For a complete setlist, log onto www.timesonline.com.)
The carefree refrains of "Roll Me Away" effectively launched the two-hour-10-minute show. Next came "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You," which Seger introduced by saying, "Here's an old Memphis song... old Memphis song," the same intro he used on that 1981 hit.
"Tryin' to Live My Life Without You," like many songs to follow, showcased his Silver Bullet Band's tight horn section led, appropriately enough, by Alto Reed.
The night's best musician, however, was Don Brewer, seated behind his drum kit, splintering his sticks as if he was still playing stadiums with Grand Funk Railroad. Brewer isn't the fastest drummer, but the man's got plenty of power. His propulsive undertow turned the first-encore finisher, "Hollywood Nights" into one of the show's highlights.
Of course, all eyes were fixated on the 61-year-old Seger in his black shirt, jeans and glasses. When caught up in the moment, he did this odd little arm gesture, like a more restrained Taylor Hicks. Seger's voice, somewhere between rugged and raspy, doesn't have a ton of range, but he nailed every note. His vocal eloquence was a thing of beauty on "We've Got Tonight."
Yes, he did "Old Time Rock and Roll." Then he sang some old time rock and roll, covering Chuck Berry's "C'est La Vie."
Ain't it funny how "Night Moves" was moving in a whole new way?
"Strange how the night moves / With autumn closing in," Bob Seger crooned, striking a reflective note between a few gentle chords strummed on acoustic guitar.
He first sang those words as a hirsute young man in the mid-1970s. Yet they never rang truer than they did in concert Saturday night at The Q.
Seger, 61, has entered the autumn of his years, a bit heavier and grayer. OK, a lot grayer. But this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer from Detroit still had all the right moves as he came to town for a sold-out show on his first tour in a decade.
"Roll Me Away" announced his return, although Seger was almost drowned out by an ecstatic crowd.
Middle-age fans who used to cruise around to "Hollywood Nights," slow dance to "Mainstreet" and make out to "We've Got Tonight" welcomed those tunes and the man with the pack-a-day pipes who sang them like old friends. Held aloft were antique devices apparently known as "lighters," which ancient civilizations used to ignite cigarettes, before smoking was all but outlawed.
"It's great to be back!" Seger said. He struck a familiar pose in the spotlight, hunching slightly and bending his knees as he leaned into the microphone. Close your eyes and you might have believed a wrinkle in the space-time continuum had whisked you back to the glory days of the "Live Bullet" album.
Seger parked himself behind a piano for a particularly well-received "Turn the Page," with veteran sideman Alto Reed's sax howling like a lonely coyote.
Besides Reed, Seger's Silver Bullet Band featured old hands Chris Campbell on bass and Craig Frost on keyboards, as well as longtime backing vocalists Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy. On drums was Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, who traded vocals with Seger on "Real Mean Bottle." The four-piece Motor City Horns provided extra punch on several numbers, including a rambunctious "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight."
Seger performed for two hours, not counting a brief intermission. The 25-song set was stacked with no fewer than seven tunes from his new album, "Face the Promise," including "Wreck This Heart," the tender ballad "Wait for Me" and "The Answer's in the Question," a country waltz done as a duet with Creamer.
When it came to oldies, Seger eschewed a few obvious choices ("Like a Rock") in favor of more obscure songs such as "Sunspot Baby." Nonetheless, he didn't ignore such career highlights as his first Top 40 hit, 1969's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," or the ever-lovely 1980 smash "Against the Wind."
"Rock and Roll Never Forgets" fittingly capped a memorable night. Now if we could only remember where we put our bifocals.
Rock `n' roll may never forget, but fans of ``active'' rock can be quite fickle (ain't that right, Fred Durst?).
Classic rock fans, however, not only don't forget, they relish opportunities to revel in the music and praise the musicians who provided the soundtrack to their memories.
Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Bob Seger, a songwriter known for encapsulating the longing and confusion of youth and, well, the longing and confusion of growing older, gave a sold-out crowd a two-hour trip down a memory lane paved primarily with his numerous hits from the 1970s and early '80s.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has returned to the road after 11 years behind a solid new album, Face The Promise. Five songs from the album peppered the set list, fitting in fine between classics such as the show-opening Roll Me Away, Horizontal Bop and Katmandu.
Sticking with the no-frills persona, the spry 61-year-old wore a simple black T-shirt and jeans and the simple stage featured no screens or pyro or fancy lasers to get in the way.
The current edition of the Silver Bullet Band is a taut 14-piece group that includes longtime sidemen saxophonist Alto Reed and bassist Chris Campbell; Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer; three backup singers dubbed ``the girls''; and the Motor City Horns.
Seger, a lifelong and repentant smoker, was in great voice, still able to lend a guttural growl to hard-rocking songs such as Hollywood Nights and Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight and imbue gentler tunes such as Night Moves and Against The Wind with a masculine vulnerability.
Seger reached back to 1968 for Ramblin' Gamblin' Man and ended with Rock and Roll Never Forgets.
Throughout the show, the mostly over-40 crowd basked in Seger's music and blue-collar demeanor, turning some songs, including Turn The Page and We've Got Tonight, into massive singalongs.
The only hints of disapproval were the playful boos hurled at Seger at the mere mention of the ``M'' word. ``I'm surrounded by all these Buckeyes,'' the Detroit native remarked after mentioning his wife's Northeast Ohio roots.
Baby boomers love to see their musical heroes still out there getting it done on record and on the road. Seger, a little softer around the middle and all gray on top, proved he still can do it and do it well.