Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Scottrade Center December 9, 2011
There's something to be said for reinventions and longevity, but as Bob Seger proved on Friday, getting it right the first time is still the best way to go. At 66, Bob Seger is no longer a young man, but he's going to rock and roll until his roll can't rock anymore. The packed Scottrade Center was evidence that there will be an audience for his radio classics for many years to come.
Bob Seger certainly got it right the first time; his nearly two hour long set featured all the hits, from closer "Katmandu" to "Travelin' Man" and "Against the Wind." At this point, those songs are so well etched in the public consciousness that any lollygagging or improv-ed jams would have stuck out like sore thumbs in a nail salon. In his four decade-long career, Seger has played with several incarnations of His Band, and some of the guys on stage last night have been with him since the beginning, or at the very least since the '80s. And it shows -- the Silver Bullet band was faultless, from the Motor City Horn section on down to the three back up singers. There were three different percussionists, all playing different kits at different times, but Grand Funk Railroad's Don Brewer rendered the other two as mere decoration, further driving home the rhythms under all the brass and bombastic guitar. It was rock and roll as it began -- the jazz and blues influence clearly defined, the sax upfront where it should be, the guitar properly funky in places and rocky in others.
Seger was on-point all night. His voice showed a little extra gravel in the second half of the set, but he remained relaxed, jovial and full of energy. He offered a little context to the songs, "Her Strut" was inspired by Jane Fonda, "We've Got Tonight" was inspired by Robert Redford's line in The Sting: "It's 2 in the morning and I don't know nobody." "We've Got Tonight" is a sexy song, as sexy as Bob gets, and it found him solo on the grand piano before the rest of the band joined in. He introduced " Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" as the "first single, all the way back to 1968." "See if you remember this one," he asked more than once, as if anyone in the audience had forgotten. He played the covers that he's adopted as his own; Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits" and Otis Clay's "Trying to Live My Life Without You." He also paid homage to country, covering a song about Merle Haggard penned by Vince Gill, and Tom Waits in "Downtown Train," which never sounded so happy. The always-welcome burner "Turn the Page" was met with hoots and hollers, and the chorus 12,000 voice strong was particularly rousing.
For all his blue collar straight shooting, The Seeg's material is ineffably upbeat, cleverly couched optimism using the vocabulary of struggle as a backdrop to his brand of life-affirming rock. Sure, it doesn't make him the coolest rock star, but the singles don't lie. Seger knows the value of what he's done in the past, and he doesn't fuck with the formula, he just delivers. Listen to your Uncle Bob, young rock stars and aspiring music makers, stick with the classics and don't gripe that no one appreciates your early garage days. Just give the people what they want.
He could have floated out on a silken cloud of good feelings, if it hadn't been for the second encore tease: After "Katmandu" Seger and his fourteen compadres left the stage. Three minutes later, amid cheers and stamping feet, they returned for "Against the Wind" and "Hollywood Nights," after which they left again, delaying the inevitable "Night Moves" another few minutes. Excusable, considering he's now a senior citizen and has earned his stripes a few times over by now. It was an excellent show, if predictably so, but rock and roll never forgets.
Setlist Roll Me Away Trying To Live My Life Without You The Fire Down Below Mainstreet Old Time Rock and Roll Downtown Train Ramblin' Gamblin' Man Hey Hey Hey Hey Travelin' Man Beautiful Loser We've Got Tonight Nutbush City Limits Come To Poppa Her Strut Real Mean Bottle Turn the Page Sunspot Baby Katmandu
Encore I Against the Wind Hollywood nights
Encore II Niught Moves Rock and Roll Never Forgets