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Concert Reviews:
Seger And Silver Bullet Band Remember How To Rock 'n' Roll
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

GRAND RAPIDS -- Rock 'n' roll never forgets, according to Bob Seger.

And Seger and his Silver Bullet Band showed they haven't forgotten how to rock 'n' roll, either, as they opened their first concert tour in more than 10 years Wednesday night at Van Andel Arena here.

Despite numerous references to his age -- ''Sweet 16 turnin' 61'' Seger sang in ''Rock and Roll Never Forgets'' -- the veteran Detroit rocker treated the highly partisan sell-out crowd of nearly 13,000 to an exuberant 25-song, two-hour and 10-minute marathon that offered plenty of what they came for as well as a few ambitious surprises. ''Bob always likes to do something that's new and fresh,'' Silver Bullet saxophonist Alto Reed noted after the show, and that was certainly the case on opening night.

There was, of course, an album to draw from -- ''Face the Promise,'' Seger's first set of new material since 1995. He wasn't shy about it, following the opening couplet of hits (''Roll Me Away'' and his cover of Eugene Williams' ''Tryin' to Live My Life Without You'') with the album's opening track, ''Wreck This Heart'' and playing six others over the course of the evening, including a daring block of four in a row at one point.

With wife Nita and children Samantha and Cole watching -- along with newly elected Michigan State University trustee George Perles and a crew from ''CBS Sunday Morning'' -- Seger also pulled out, for the first time ever, his version of Chuck Berry's ''C'Est La Vie,'' which he recorded for his first ''Greatest Hits'' album in 1994. A two-song, sit-down, ''unplugged'' style set featured ''The Answer's in the Question'' from ''Face the Promise,'' with backing vocalist Laura Creamer handling Patti Loveless' duet part, and the Zydeco-flavored ''Sightseeing'' from 1991's ''The Fire Inside,'' for which keyboardist Craig Frost strapped on an accordion.

There were more subtle sonic adventures, too, such as Alto Reed covering the electric guitar parts of ''Night Moves'' on his saxophone and the four-piece Motor City Horns section pumping fresh, soulful energy into favorites such as ''Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight,'' ''Beautiful Loser,'' ''Horizontal Bop'' and ''Rock and Roll Never Forgets'' -- an exciting addition to the Silver Bullet corps that merits even greater involvement.

And there was plenty of old time Seger rock 'n' roll, as he lit up the crowd with, well, ''Old Time Rock & Roll,'' ''Mainstreet,'' ''Sunspot Baby,'' ''Katmandu,'' an effective pairing of ''We've Got Tonight'' and ''Turn the Page,'' and solid encore renditions of ''Hollywood Nights'' and ''Against the Wind.''

Being off the road for so long has taken a bit of a toll on Seger, who started the evening sounding tentative but gained strength and confidence the show rolled on. ''First time in 10 years -- I need a little water,'' he apologized before ''Wreck This Heart,'' while after ''Old Time Rock & Roll'' he exclaimed ''That's only 20 percent of the show! You people our age know what I'm talking about.'' Nevertheless, Seger, who played guitar and piano on quite a few songs, worked hard enough to sweat through a series of headbands and was visibly energized by his return to the stage and by the ebullient crowd response -- so loud that the Silver Bullet Band members said it drowned out the stage sound.

As befits an opening night there were some rough patches and miscues -- a rough-hewn vocal here, a saxophone key sticking there, an inconsistent sound mix, lighting schemes that left the musicians in the dark -- but none dampened the night's overall sense of event. It was a triumphant, if overdue, return and an indication that Seger will not only face but live up to standard his reputation promises as the tour goes on.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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