Friday, December 19, 2014

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band at Madison Square Garden

Bob Seger was born in Dearborn, Michigan, and lived in the area until age six when his family moved to nearby Ann Arbor, Michigan. Seger's father played several instruments, so the younger Seger was exposed to music from an early age. While in high school in 1961, Seger hit the Detroit music scene fronting a three-piece band called the Decibels. Five years later, Bob Seger & the Last Heard had a local hit, "East Side Story." The Bob Seger System hit with "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" in 1969. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band had a local hit with "Katmandu" in 1975. Seger had a unique popularity imbalance; he was headlining arenas in Michigan but was barely noticed everywhere else. The Night Moves album in 1976 finally made him a national headliner; Seger now has 13 platinum and seven multi-platinum albums. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. Ride Out, Seger's first studio album since 2006, was released October 14, 2014. Seger lives in Orchard Lake Village, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band pulled into Madison Square Garden tonight "a little bit older and a lot less bolder," as his lyrics proclaim in "Rock and Roll Never Forgets." Under the arena's bright lights, the 69-year-old Seger appeared white haired and white bearded, wearing glasses and an untucked dark button-down shirt that did not hide his paunchy belly. Quite a lot of the audience looked like that too. (His opening song, 1982's "Roll Me Away," could have another meaning now.) Seger's string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s had evocative lyrics reflecting on times gone by; in 2014 he and his audience have that much more nostalgia to ponder. For nearly two hours, Seger and his band relived the "Old Time Rock and Roll" with some fast rock ("Hollywood Nights", "Rock and Roll Never Forgets") and a whole lot of ballads ("Mainstreet", "Like a Rock", "We've Got Tonight", "Turn the Page") and mid-tempo songs ("Her Strut", "Travelin' Man", "Beautiful Loser", "Against the Wind", "Night Moves"). He also introduced five new songs, including two covers, Steve Earle's anti-gun violence statement in "The Devil's Right Hand" and John Hiatt's "Detroit Made," an ode to Seger's home state and its automobiles. For several songs, he sat on a stool center stage and strummed an acoustic guitar, for others he moved to a piano, but for most of the set he paced the stage, punching the air on the faster songs. Standing or sitting, Seger's burly and forceful baritone, rich with tone and shading, soulfully nuanced every ache and joy of his lyrics. Whether he was rocking or crooning, Seger's singing still retained "The Fire Down Below." His 14-piece band majestically powered the backup to drive the songs to peak after peak. For lovers of classic rock, this may have been the concert of the year.

Visit Bob Seger at