Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Here I Am, on the Road Again...": He's Older Now but Bob Seger Can Still Rock 'n Roll Me Away -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band 
w/ opening act J. Geils Band
United Center, Chicago
December 11, 2014

Until late 2006, Bob Seger stood--for quite some time--as my favorite living rock artist that I had never seen live.

Why I was seemingly oblivious to his 1996 It's A Mystery tour remains a mystery to me, as I wasn't aware of him doing any Chicago-area shows since 1986, right before I left for college.

But ever since Seger revved up his storied Silver Bullet Band in 2006, I have now seen him 5 times in 5 separate years, including once at New York's Madison Square Garden, once in Grand Rapids, MI and 3 times in Chicago (once technically in Rosemont).

So heading into the United Center with my erstwhile concert pals Dave and Paolo, just 21 months removed from having seen Seger & the SSB at the same venue, I pretty much knew what to expect. (Especially as one who religiously visits

For better--as I knew I'd get nothing less than a solidly enjoyable show filled with many songs I love--and worse, as I knew he wouldn't mine his catalog or alter his setlist from past tours as much as I'd prefer.

But with reasonably-priced tickets near the back of the UC's 3rd deck, a superlative opening act--the J. Geils Band, who I'd never seen--and alongside two close friends, a reliably good, in many parts great, show from a longtime favorite was more than good enough for (old time) rock and roll. 

Pinpointing a rating on my @@@@@ scale is never an exact science, and in this case @@@@1/2 may be 1/2@ more than I might give Seger's set itself.

Though still a terrific performer at 69 and in fine voice, at this point Seger won't make the upper reaches of my Best Concerts of 2014 list, in a year where I've seen 15 shows upon which I bestowed @@@@@.

I can't say Bob was quite on par with Bruce, Neil, Robert, Paul, Stevie, Elvis, Richard and others whose concerts I've loved this year. (Look for my Best of 2014 series starting December 20.)

But adding in Geils' fine 45-minute set--highlighted by an ever-kinetic Peter Wolf and such gems as "Give It to Me," "Must of Got Lost," "Love Stinks," "Centerfold" and "Ain't Nothin' but a House Party"--my rating above aptly represents my overall enjoyment for the evening. 

Even though Seger's roughly 100 minutes onstage was less than in years past--he cut his set down from 25 songs in 2006-07 to 21 now--and I will forever hope he would revisit tunes like "Still the Same," "Feel Like a Number," "Even Now" and a few others, including "Heavy Music," an old favorite of Dave's, everything he played on Thursday night sounded good. 

It certainly is no surprise that I--and presumably the entire full house of fans who not only appreciate how Seger's music has woven through their lives, but that he is about as genial and earnest as a rock star gets--loved "Roll Me Away," "The Fire Down Below," "Mainstreet," "Old Time Rock & Roll," "Travelin' Man/Beautiful Loser," "Turn the Page," "Against the Wind," "Hollywood Nights," "Night Moves," "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" and other golden oldies. 

But while wishing he would sprinkle in a few different ones, I can't really condemn Seger for not offering anything new, as he played five tracks off his recently released Ride Out album--and none sounded out of place or prompted mass restroom runs. 

A Steve Earle cover, "The Devil's Right Hand," sounded strong, as did Seger's homage to Stevie Ray Vaughan "Hey Gypsy" and "Detroit Made," his latest single, written by John Hiatt. (See Bob Seger's full Chicago setlist here.)

Though Seger's current tour is currently slated to run through February, to which several hometown Detroit dates will conceivably be added, he himself has speculated that he may hang up his guitar after turning 70 next May. 

"I want to be graceful about it. I don't want to overstay my welcome," Seger told Billboard in October.

All the more reason I'm glad I saw him and the outstanding Silver Bullet Band--Seger told the crowd that bassist Chris Campbell has played with him since 1969, and eternally cool saxophonist Alto Reed since 1962--once more.

For no matter how many times, or how recently, I've done it, singing along with "Turn the Page," "Night Moves," "Against the Wind" and many others will always be special, particularly as I remember loving the Stranger in Town (1978) and Against the Wind (1980) LPs that my dad added to our family record collection in my youth.

(Because of my personal timeframe, I'm also much more sentimental about 1981's Nine Tonight live album, rather than 1976's more celebrated Live Bullet.)

I also appreciate that Seger is a throwback--he isn't on Spotify, hasn't released a live DVD of any of the recent tours and features no background videos or sets on stage--who can still sell out the United Center in 2014.

As he sings in "Against the Wind":

"I'm older now but still running, against the wind."

So am I, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

And I'm glad Bob Seger is still around as we both continue to turn the page.

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