No one has more fun at a Bob Seger concert than Bob Seger.
His fans clearly enjoy themselves too, singing along to the deep repertoire of hits that likely served as the soundtrack to their own night moves. But part of the reason they do is doubtlessly Seger’s own infectious, boundless enthusiasm. Saturday night, the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee brought his still vital voice and one man pep squad stage moves– lots of pumped fists, points to his band members for their solos, and joyful clapping– and gave every ounce of energy away to the Forum in Los Angeles as part of his Travelin’ Man tour, billed as his last hurrah for the road.
Over the course of two hours and change of blissful, irony-free classic rock, the 73-year-old singer-songwriter and his stalwart Silver Bullet Band– 14-strong, complete with horns and a dynamite trio of backing vocalists– traced the Michigan rocker’s 50-plus year career as one of the most heartfelt of the heartland rockers. Here are five stand out elements from the show.
Nostalgia + Memory = Power
So many of Bob Seger’s songs are already about looking back that when commingled with the band’s strong performances and the collective audience nostalgia for the times they evoke it made for a powerful bonding. From the visions of optimism and regret in the reflective “Against the Wind” to the curmudgeonly carping of “Old Time Rock and Roll” to the spectrum of emotions in “Night Moves”– from ruefulness to reverie reminiscing on frisky teenage nights in the woods– to the cinematic rain-soaked images of “Mainstreet,” no one remembers quite as vividly as Seger.
Rereading “Turn the Page”
One of the few songs abused by classic rock radio that never loses its wallop. Saturday night could have been the first time that saxophonist Alto Reed blared out that mournful horn riff and that Seger intoned his stealthily explosive tale of bone-deep road-weariness, bellowing “Here I go, playin’ the star again,” as the star he is, with a potent choir backing vocal provided by the entire arena.
Who needs tomorrow?
The best entertainment takes you out of your own life and Seger and the band did that repeatedly, and forcefully, particularly with the melancholy balladry of “We’ve Got Tonight,” the ultimate ode to seeking the temporary shelter of Mr. or Ms. Right Now.
The fire inside
That unmistakable rasp has always been Seger’s calling card– from piratical to purring– and Saturday he put it through its paces revving up the bluesy growl for swaggering tunes like “Her Strut,” “The Fire Down Below,” and “Come to Poppa,” stretching it to the limit for surging rockers like “Hollywood Nights” and “Roll Me Away” and modulating it to a more intimate croon for contemplative songs like “Shame on the Moon” and “You’ll Accomp’ny Me.”
Bob does Bob in a tribute to those we’ve lost
In one of the show’s most touching interludes, Seger covered Bob Dylan’s classic “Forever Young” as an homage to his late friend Glenn Frey of the Eagles–with whom he wrote that band’s hit “Heartache Tonight” along with Don Henley and J.D. Souther. As he offered up the song’s life advice images of Frey, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Aretha Franklin, Tom Petty, Prince, Chuck Berry, B.B. King and others appeared on-screen — some with Seger smiling alongside them in candid shots– as a sort of rock concert version of an In Memoriam segment.
As an artist who so clearly still enjoys performing– who also still sounds great and is packing arenas– it’s easy to be skeptical about the idea of him retiring from the road that has served his songwriting so well. But Seger was clear at the Forum on Saturday, and last month at a show in Nashville, that this is the end, at the very least, of this type of touring. If so, for fans, the members of the Silver Bullet Band, and Seger himself these shows will be the memories that will make them wealthy souls.