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Bob Seger Facing The Present -- And The Future

Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Bob Seger's feeling like it's time to turn another page.

The veteran Detroit rocker brings his "Face the Promise" tour -- his first road trek in 10 years -- to a close this week with three home town shows, one at Joe Louis Arena and two at Cobo Arena, where he recorded the breakthrough "Live Bullet" album in 1975. And despite offers for summer dates, Seger says he's had enough.

For now, at least.

"Really, I just want to take a deep breath and reunite with the family," explains Seger, 61, who lives in the West Bloomfield area with his wife, Nita, and their children Cole, 14, and Samantha, 11. "I want to be home, really, for the kids. Even though I have been going home every night (during the tour), I only see 'em a couple hours a day and not very much and I miss them and I want to reconnect with them.

"They're getting into their teenage years, which are formidable years. I don't want to drop the ball on that for this (touring). I've got a lot of soul-searching to do."

Seger has work to do, too. He wants to sharpen his skills on ProTools, a computerized recording system he's installed in his Clarkston recording studio. And, he says, there's more songwriting to be done, something that's continued since the platinum "Face the Promise" album came out last September.

"I've been messing a little bit...in the dressing room, 'cause I've got a lot of time

between sound check and the show,” Seger notes. “There’s two songs I really like that are left over from the last bunch, and I’m trying to rewrite them.”

Among those is a track called “Outland” that he’s been working on since 1997 and, according to Seger, is desperately in need of a bridge section.

“Worst case scenario,” he says, “I’m gonna send it to somebody, (the Eagles’ Don) Henley or somebody — ‘Write me a damn bridge, will you?! I’ve been working on this for 10 years!’ ”

The news that Seger plans to return to the creative cocoon — where he spent the better part of 10 years making “Face the Promise” — may cause some long faces in the camp of his Silver Bullet Band, whose members had largely given up hope of touring again.

“I said, ‘I don’t think this is ever gonna happen,’ and had come to grips with that,” acknowledges Craig Frost, the Silver Bullet Band keyboardist since 1980 and one of the few group members to co-write with Seger. “I didn’t expect this (tour), to be honest.”

Neither did bassist Chris Campbell, whose been working with Seger since 1969. He had moved to Florida and was selling commercial real estate, watching Seger’s torpid progress on “Face the Promise” from afar.

“I just didn’t think he was being very serious about it, ’cause things were moving so slowly,” Campbell, 58, explains. “I thought, ‘Well, I’m not so sure if he’s gonna put this album out or not. There doesn’t seem to be any great concern over it.’ ”

But, he says, things seemed to accelerate after Seger’s 2004 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which included his first live performance with the band since 1996.

“It really changed him,” Campbell notes. “It was like a different person. He was very motivated. I think it hit him like a ton of bricks — ‘I’m in the Hall of Fame. This is serious business. I have to not only put out an album, I have to put out a really, really good album!’

“That was the obvious change right there.”

Campbell also fi gured that “there’s no way (Seger’s) going to release an album and not tour,” and both he and Frost are ebullient about how well the shows have been going — including the addition of the four-piece Motor City Horns section and a set list that’s recently added “The Fire Down Below” and Vince Gill’s “Real Mean Bottle,” a duet with Kid Rock from the “Face the Promise” album.

“I’ve never seen him more happy on a tour in my entire experience with him,” Frost, 58, notes. “He’s genuinely having fun up there. You can see it. He’s having a good time, and the people like that.”

Campbell is particularly happy to see that Seger has “mellowed. He’s matured. He’s smiling more. He’s talking to the audience. We’re all like, ‘Wow, this is really something ...’ That’s what makes it a lot more fun.”

Seger chalks up the tour’s success — 50 shows, more than 600,000 tickets sold and overwhelmingly positive reviews — to “maturity. Everybody’s older now, and they don’t get caught up on offstage antics so much and they take it more seriously. It’s definitely easier than I expected.”

But, he adds, it’s also taxing.

“You feel like you’re in jail, kind of,” he explains. “We have to stay in tip-top shape and we need to get tons of rest. You’ve got to watch every little thing you do. You’ve got to watch who you shake hands with; you can’t afford to get a cold.

“You don’t feel like being quiet after a show, but you gotta do it. You don’t even feel like sitting and reading a book, but you gotta do it. We’re kinda like prisoners that way.”

Seger promises some “surprises” for this week’s Detroit shows, which he and the band have experimented with in recent sound checks.

“We’ve already played (the area) once, so we can try a bunch of stuff,” he says. “It’s fun to try to have something new in the show. It’s fun to hit people with something unexpected, and it keeps the band on its toes, too.”

And come Saturday, when he walks off stage for the last time, Seger expects to “let out a big sigh” and cast an eye toward the future.

“I figure I’ll take six or seven months (off) and just write and that’s all, maybe a little bit of recording, nothing else, definitely don’t play with the band,” Seger says.

“Then I’ll just reassess in October and say, ‘How do I feel?’ Do I want to start another record and do the thing the following summer or the following fall?,’ or something. That’s a good way to approach it, I think.”

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band and Uncle Kracker perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (March 13) at Joe Louis Arena, 600 Civic Center Drive, Detroit, and Thursday and Saturday (March 15 and 17) at Cobo Arena, 301 Civic Center Drive, Detroit. Some tickets, priced at $65, are still available for Thursday’s show. Call (313) 471-6616 or visit www.olympia entertainment.com

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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