Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band at Xcel Energy Center, 5/12/11
"Today's music ain't got the same soul." Not a song I really need to hear for the ten-thousandth time, or for the thousand more times I'm likely to hear it in my lifetime, but I'll be damned if this lyric doesn't resonate with the crowd assembled Thursday night at the Xcel for a performance by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band - as well as for this critic.
Soul. Today's fashionably auto-tuned, pre-programmed popular stuff lacks just that. It's a lyric that rings true now more than ever, and I reckon if you brought anyone who in the last week bought a record by Rihanna, or Bruno Mars, or (insert more of today's popular crap here) to this show, they'd likely be moved to agree, once they got past all the old people, like, totally rocking out and being weird and stuff.
But first up, Seger's opener Frankie Ballard. A native like Bob Seger of Michigan (in Ballard's case, from Battle Creek), I have to say, it's pretty awesome that Seger's having a country singer open for him. And it makes sense; Ballard's take on country is a throwback to the days when hard rocking country and hard roots rock were basically inseparable. Thursday he played a quick but energetic set, including his singles "Tell Me You Get Lonely" and "A Buncha Girls," and proved to be a strong opening act. Ballard looks the part of a rock dude, too, a scrappy guy in skinny black jeans and long hair, adept at electric guitar instead of idly strumming an acoustic while singing the same old ballad-y tripe
Looking around during the lag time between Ballard and Seger, I can count on one hand, thumb excluded, the number of times I've seen a crowd of people this genuinely excited (not just drunk and stupid excited) at a concert. When Seger and the well-staffed Silver Bullet Band took the stage, tonight accompanied by the Motor City Horns, they gave this crowd exactly what it was hoping for - big sound, high energy, and rock that's as straight-up as it gets.
Photos by Tony Nelson
Playing with original Silver Bullet members bassist Chris Campbell and saxophone player Alto Reed as well as a cast of slightly newer additions including Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer, the band had the entire house on its feet through its first three songs - "Roll Me Away," "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You," and "Fire Down Below." Folks sat momentarily as Bob himself sat on a stool and strapped on an acoustic for "Mainstreet," featuring Alto Reed on alto sax, soaring above the cheers of the crowd at the conclusion of each chorus. Folks didn't stay in their seats for long, though, for the second most played jukebox song of all time, "Old Time Rock and Roll," was up next.
They had to pitch this and other songs down a bit, but Seger, barely a week after his 66th birthday, has still got it. From the classic songs, to his new take on the Tom Waits song "Downtown Train," he's got the same heart, the same sassy stage moves, the same pipes - amazing considering he's been using them for fifty years now - the same punctuating vocalized "yeah!" and "uh!" the twenty-something year old boy from Ann Arbor had when he was fronting Bob Seger System, singing some of his earliest hits like "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" and "Lucifer."
Professionalism to the nth, a powerhouse band, a frontman who still cares. There are few who've been around for as many decades and can still deliver like this. Beautiful.
Critic's bias: When I was a real little kid, I used to confuse Seger with Steve Miller. I know better now.
Photos by Tony Nelson
The crowd: Totally geeked Seger superfans.
Overheard in the crowd: (As spoken by a woman who had proclaimed herself the #1 Bob Seger fan, to the guy in front of her): "You're not just allowed to dance - it's REQUIRED.
"Roll Me Away"
"Tryin' to Live My Life Without You"
"Fire Down Below"
"Old Time Rock and Roll"
"Ramblin' Gamblin' Man"
"Real at the Time"
"Good for Me"
"Come to Poppa"
"Long Twin Silver Line"
"We've Got Tonight"
"Turn the Page"
"Against the Wind"
"Rock and Roll Never Forgets"