Bob Seger says that coming home to perform in the Detroit area “means everything” to him and the mostly Michigan-bred members of his Silver Bullet Band.
And as the troupe prepares for its three-night stand this week at the Palace of Auburn Hills, it’s more resonant because, according to Seger, it might not happen very much — or at all — in the future.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who turned 66 on May 6, has been making references to packing it in after this run. Some might roll their eyes — peers like David Bowie and Elton John alone have professed multiple retirements — but Seger insists that, in his case, it’s a real possibility.
“I don’t know if I want to do this when I’m 67, you know?” he says on a day off between shows in Omaha, Neb., and Minneapolis, when, as on most of the tour, he’s returned home — this time to catch his son, Cole, play his final high school band concert before graduating next month.
But fans can take some heart; Seger — who first talked about “slowing down” in 1986 and effectively did that — is also eyeballing another tour later this year because “there are so many places we didn’t play” on the current 27-date run that began March 26 in Toledo.
“I must admit we are kid of glancing at the fall,” Seger acknowledges. “We didn’t play anywhere in Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky...I could go on and on. There were states we never even got to. And we only played one in Texas (Houston) and there’s a lot of places to play in Texas. We didn’t go to the west coast. We did one gig in Canada, and that’s a big country.
“And it’s going to well and everybody is so positive on it, we are considering maybe two months, like late October to late December, just before Christmas.”
And then he’s “retiring?”
“I think there’d be a much better chance then, yeah,” Seger says with a laugh.
There’s still, of course, plenty of life left in the current tour, which is slated to wrap May 28 in Grand Rapids. “I’ll tell you, it’s been easier than I thought,” notes Seger, who finished his previous tour in March of 2007. “I didn’t think it could ever be this easy. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly a helluva lot easier than I thought ti would be, and that’s good.
“Mentally it’s not that hard, but physically, at my age...to go out and do, like, two hours and 10 minutes every night, and sometimes longer, was daunting. And I think the band has been really dedicated and we’re getting a real positive response practically everywhere we go, and it’s been really good.”
Shaun Murphy, a Seger backing vocalist since 1973, says Seger’s performances this spring have been inspiring to watch. “He’s been coming back like gangbusters,” says Murphy, who shares a birthday with her “boss.” “He’s singing great, hitting some incredible notes.
“I know he works really, really hard to get ready for each tour, and the older you get the harder it is to get where you got the last time. I think he’s doing a great job.”
As for the retirement talk, Murphy says that “I think (Seger) really wants to, but then the little angel on the other side of the shoulder says, ‘Come on, Bob, you can do it one more time!’ Nothing is definitive until he says it is; we just sit with our fingers crossed and hope for the best. We all want him to go back out, and certainly the fans are just clamoring for it.”
Seger, meanwhile, has been dazzling his audiences not just with the expected parade of hits such as “Night Moves,” “Old Time Rock and Roll,” “Hollywood Nights” and “Against the Wind” — the list is pretty long when you’ve sold more than 50 million albums in a career — but also by resurrecting his barn-burning version of Ike & Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits” and rarities such as “Real at the Time,” “Long Twin Silver Line,” “Good For Me” (played just once before this tour) and “Shinin’ Brightly,” which he’d never played live until he debuted it in Saginaw on March 29.
“I’m always looking for something that feels a little bit different from everything else in the set,” Seger explains, “and trying to do as many angles on rock and soul as I can find. Basically we just go night to night and I analyze how it sounds and say, ‘Well, I wonder if we try this or try that,’ and we’re trying different things at sound check.
“There’s just a myriad of possibilities, and I can really vary the show. We can put away something like ‘Betty Lou...’ or ‘C’est La Vie’ and try something different. That’s what makes it fun.”
While he mulls over a return to the road in the fall — Seger says he hopes to make a decision by mid-June “to start booking it in order to get good dates — there’s also a new album in progress. He’s been working on the set, his first of all-new material since 2006’s “Face the Promise,” since putting together the compilation “Early Seger Volume One,” and has given fans a taste via his cover of Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train.” He’s also recorded: a “father-daughter” song called “Hannah” that features guest appearances by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow — the same trio that recorded “Collide,” the latest single from Rock’s “Born Free” album; a “very Led Zeppelin” track called “The Sea Inside;” and “Hey Gypsy,” a Texas swing-styled “homage to Stevie Ray Vaughan” that he and the Silver Bullet Band have worked up to possibly play live.
“I’m really making an effort to break new ground on it,” says Seger, who’s planning to return to the album during the summer. “Different feels, different speeds, different approaches to the stuff I do...There isn’t a song on it quite like anything I’ve done before.”
He’s not hazarding a guess as to when he’ll finish or release the album, and Seger notes that, like touring, it might also bring an end to an era of his life.
“I’ll still be writing songs, but I don’t know about recording,” Seger says. “I’d write for other people, because recording takes a lot more time than the writing, and I think I could better use my time just writing and then turn (the songs) over to someone else and hoping they do them well.
“And there are so many writers in Nashville to work with...I’ve been writing alone for years and years and years, and maybe to write with other people would not only speed up the process but expand it, expand the horizons, and it might be fun. But that’s down the road.”
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (May 17), Thursday (May 19) and Saturday (May 21) at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Opening acts are the Rockets on Tuesday, Jill Jack on Thursday and Frankie Ballard on Saturday. Some tickets remain at $69. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
Oakland Press music writer Gary Graff and photographer Tom Weschler will be signing copies of their book "Travelin' Man: On the Road and Behind the Scenes with Bob Seger" (Painted Turtle) before all three shows on the Palace concourse.
Send your thoughts and comments to