TOLEDO, Ohio -- As he and his Silver Bullet Band tour into a show-closing rendition of "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" on Saturday (March 26), Bob Seger inserted the line "sweet 16 turns 65" -- as if marveling that he was still on stage playing his particular brand of Midwestern rock at an age many others are collecting Social Security.
But as the Detroit rocker opened his highly anticipated spring tour at Toledo's Huntington Center, it was clear Seger remembers how to put on the kind of long and lusty show on which he's staked his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame expectation.
The salt-to-pepper ratio, of course, has increased a bit since Seger finished his last tour nearly four years to the day. And there were some concessions to age as he sat down on a stool for his acoustic guitar numbers such as "Main Street," "Against the Wind" and "Night Moves" -- not to mention some expected opening-night miscues and even a bona fide senior moment when Seger introduced "Her Strut" as coming from the "Stranger in Town" album (it's actually on "Against the Wind").
But at two hours and 15 minutes and 25 songs this was no retiring kind of rock show. Rather, it was full-tilt and fired up, an exhaustive exposition whose flaws only made the set seem that much more reckless and youthful -- to the delight of the sold-out crowd of 8,200 that seemed almost equally divided between Michiganders and Ohioans.
Seger and company came out strong -- perhaps a bit TOO strong -- with "Roll Me Away," Otis Clay's "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You," "Her Strut," "Main Street" and "Old Time Rock and Roll," with the 13-piece Silver Bullets in fine form, bolstered by the four-piece Motor City Horns and solos by saxophonist Alto Reed, keyboardist Craig Frost and guitarist Mark Chatfield. But by the time the group hit "Downtown Train," the Tom Waits cover that's the first release from Seger's upcoming (but incomplete) new album, the singer -- who was sporting a Toledo Mud Hens baseball jersey and a headband -- seemed a bit gassed and working to maintain an equilibrium.
He managed to find it, however, and even got stronger as the show went on -- and particularly after an eight-minute break that followed the pleasing-as-ever coupling of "Travelin' Man" and "Beautiful Loser."
The show did follow a model similar to the 2006-07 run -- after all, it's not like Seger can get away without playing staples such as "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," "We've Got Tonight," "Turn the Page," "Horizontal Bop," "Katmandu" and "Hollywood Nights." But he did insert some gems and surprises, including the "Against the Wind" ballad "Good For Me," "Gets Ya Pumpin' " from 2010's "Early Seger Vol. 1" collection and the return of Ike & Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits" and "Come to Poppa." The only flat selection was a cover of the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing" performed by the three Silver Bullet backup singers -- Shaun Murphy, Laura Creamer and Barbara Payton -- a speed bump that, coming shortly after the break, didn't make much sense.
But if tradition holds, the ever-exacting Seger will go over the opening night show in detail and continue to tweak it probably until the tour wraps in May at the Palace of Auburn Hills. But on Saturday, the trek certainly began on good footing.
Bob Seger's opening night set list included:
"Roll Me Away"
"Tryin' To Live My Life Without You"
"Old Time Rock and Roll"
"Ramblin Gamblin' Man"
"C'est La Vie"
"Good For Me"
"Travelin' Man"/"Beautiful Loser"
"Nutbush City Limits"
"Come to Poppa"
"It's Your Thing"
"Gets Ya Pumpin' "
"Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight"
"We've Got Tonight"
"Turn the Page"
"Against the Wind"
"Rock and Roll Never Forgets"
Tickets, priced at $69, are on sale for Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band shows May 17, 19 and 21 at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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