by Kelley Bass
April 26, Verizon Arena
Bob Seger first took the stage in 1961, and 50 years and countless tours later the Detroit rocker says this is probably his farewell run across America. So how apropos that this tour ends late next month with three shows in Detroit and a final concert in Cleveland, another blue-collar town that has always gone nuts over Seger and his Silver Bullet Band.
Count Little Rock as another Seger hotbed. More than a quarter-century removed from his hit-making run through the 1970s and ’80s, almost 14,000 turned out for his February 2007 concert at Alltel/Verizon Arena, and 7,720 braved a stormy night Tuesday, April 26, to flick their Bics, sing along and generally rock out to the vast array of hits and non-radio faves.
Two of the 13 musicians who joined Seger on the uncrowded, expansive stage are original Silver Bullets — bassist Chris Campbell and saxophonist Alto Reed — and this seemed like a show aimed at those who caught onto the group in its earliest days.
Seven Bob Seger albums preceded the release of 1975’s "Beautiful Loser," but that record represented the debut of the Silver Bullet Band and ushered in Seger’s peak glory days.
"Live Bullet" followed in 1976 and was Seger’s breakout, eventually selling 4 million copies. The band had recorded “Night Moves” before “Live Bullet” was released, and when it hit in 1977 it added fuel to the roaring fire of Seger success.
Those three albums were heavily represented in the Verizon Arena show: The “Traveling Man/Beautiful Loser” combo was the highlight of the show, ending the first set with a thunderous, guitar-filled bang — two highlights of “Beautiful Loser” that were first combined on “Live Bullet.” To open the second set Seger pulled out “Nutbush City Limits,” the Tina Turner hit that also was on “Beautiful Loser.” Other unexpected delights included “Sunspot Baby” and “Come to Poppa,” cuts from “Night Moves” that got no radio play; in all, Seger played six of the nine tunes from that multi-platinum classic.
For fans of Seger’s earlier, harder stuff, this concert was notable for what wasn’t played, treacle-y tripe such as “Still the Same,” “Fire Lake” (you remember Uncle Joe; he was the one afraid to cut the cake); “Like a Rock,” “You’ll Accompany Me” and “Shakedown,” for instance.
Even someone who grew up on vintage Seger is surely tired by now of “Night Moves,” “Turn the Page” and the even more ubiquitous “Old Time Rock & Roll.” But those songs come alive and even feel fresh when done live. “Night Moves” and “Turn the Page” — clichéd though they’ve become — at their heart are very well written slice-of-life songs.
Seger has scheduled at least one day off between all shows on this tour to give his voice — and his body — some needed rest. Neither showed much noticeable wear Tuesday night. Seger is cut from true old-school, hard-working rocker cloth, much like Bruce Springsteen, and he never shortchanges his fans. His songs don’t demand a lot of vocal range, and that helps when a man ages (on May 6 Seger will be 66).
Over the course of 20 songs, followed by two two-song encores, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band delivered a long, strong show for his Arkansas faithful, most of whom likely will never see him again live. Thanks for the memories, Bob.