….”Come back baby, rock and roll never forgets…”
I had another interesting story (well, to me anyway…) connected to seeing Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. I thought it was 1982, but after an internet search I suspect it was April of 1983 when Bob Seger played the Forum in LA. I had tickets, but I also had a job at KEZY radio that required me to be at work at 10pm. I begged and shuffled and was able to coax that I could arrive at 11pm. But, anyone who live around here knows you how long it takes from Inglewood to Anaheim. So, I went to the show…and spent the whole night checking my watch, pushing it to the very last moment and finally leaving about halfway through the show to head to work. “Oh well I thought….I’ll see him next time he comes through town….”
He didn’t return until 1987 and I missed it. I missed the shows on the tours in the 90’s as well. Then, he pretty much retired from the road. Life moved along…A 2007 tour came up, and I was on the road when the LA show happened….so, I missed it. It seemed as if I’d never actually see a complete Seger concert.
Then, a few months back he scheduled a show at Staples Center for December 28th. I hate Staples Center, it’s not a very good place to see any concert. But, this was finally my chance to see a full show.
Bob and I are both a bit older and an attack of grey hair has done it’s evil work on both of us. But, I figured that I’d close my eyes and as long as the music and the show was good, it didn’t matter that we might both be older, grayer and a little more “filled out”. I bought a nice single seat near the mix console at the rear of the floor and crossed my fingers I’d get a decent show that would live up to my memories of that half show 28 years ago.
First up was an opening act named Frankie Ballard. Seemed like a nice kid….but, why does a kid from Michigan talk like he’s from Alabama? I suspect it’s because he’s being sold as a “country” artist. That new sort of country…the one that’s more pop and has very little in common with someone like George Jones or Waylon Jennings. The kid and his band we competent players in a bar band sort of way. In fact the two best songs of the set were covers….”Pink Houses” and “Fortunate Son”. Mid-set he played his new single “a bunch of girls” and it was basically “Kenny Chesney” lite…(and since Kenny Chesney is basically Jimmy Buffet lite) it was the musical equivalent of of a third generation cassette copy of a song. He fell back on the crutch of mentioning the headliner a couple times (as well as “the troops”) to get a few rousing cheers. Basically, it was brief and not really offensive, but nothing that makes me think he’ll end up more than a footnote in my musical memories. He was however very punctual…on stage at 7:30 and off at 7:59….so, he’s got that going for him I suppose.
Seger hit the stage at 8:30 exactly and tore into “Roll Me Away”…let me just say here…the man rocks f0r someone who has 15+ years on me. He sounded great and no eye closing was required. Yeah, he’s gray…but he looked healthy and really seemed to be using every tool in the toolbox to involve the crowd. From the start this was not a band there for a payday (like say Kiss was the last time I saw them). This was a rock and roll band near equal to might E-Street band.
The anchor at the center was Don Brewer (of Grand Funk Railroad) who is rock solid after all these years and kept the steady pulse that the rest of the players could build on. Those players, (some who have worked with Seger going back to 1969) are uniformly tight and talented…just like the guys on E-Street are. In fact, I was thinking during the show how both Seger and Springsteen built their bands with a standout sax player (in this case Alto Reed, since 1971). Reed provided a number of highlights, with the most memorable being his excellent work on “Turn the Page”.
Bob may have some moments where his voice shows a tad bit of age, but generally it was stronger than guys I’ve heard who were half his age. And 50 years of stagecraft and practice allowed him to cover flawlessly by doing things like having a quick crowd sing along…which the full house was eager to cooperate with, generally at the top of their lungs. It wasn’t a young crowd, but it was one of the more enthusiastic group of over 40’s I’ve seen. Much of the crowd were on their feet dancing and singing for the entire near two hour show.
There were three moments that stand out in my mind which totally made the night for me.
The opening of “Roll Me Away” was so perfect that I nearly shed a tear. So many years of waiting and to be rewarded with such a great sound brought back a whole range of memories and emotions. From those first notes I knew it was going to be a good show.
The segue between Travelin’ Man on into “Beautiful Loser”. To me this is the centerpiece of the “Live Bullet” album, which may be one of the most perfect live albums ever recorded. (That’s not just my opinion, lots of critics rank it as #1 as well). While on occasion some of his lyrics can be a bit cliche’d, “Beautiful Loser” features this:
He wants to dream like a young man
With the wisdom of an old man
He wants his home and security
He wants to live like a sailor at sea
Where you gonna fall?
When you realize
You just can’t have it all
The transition between them and a lifetime of listening to those songs flow into each other was something I didn’t think I’d ever hear live. And it was perfect.
The last was the first encore which opened with “Against the Wind”. As I listened to this song, my thoughts turned to my friend Jeff who we lost a few years back. He had Detroit roots and we saw a lot of Detroit based acts together back when we were both “young and strong”. I thought about how much I wish we could have seen this show together, and how much has changed during all those years that have “rolled slowly by”.
It was a fitting song to cap a show that I waited a long time to see.
It really ended up being one of the best shows that I saw in an eventful year of concerts. It was a really nice way to finish the year.
Set List: Roll Me Away/Trying to Live my Life/Fire Down Below/Main Street/Old Time Rock & Roll/Rambling Gambling Man/Going Back to Birmingham/Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser/We’ve got Tonight/Nutbush City Limits/Come to Poppa/Her Strut/Real Mean Bottle/Turn a Page/Sunspot Baby/Katmandu Encores: Against the Wind/Hollywood Nights/Night Moves/Rock & Roll Never Forgets