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Concert Reviews:
As if Bob Seger would be anything less than great in his home town
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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AUBURN HILLS -- Bob Seger apparently isn't sensitive about his age -- or at least not too sensitive to joke about it.

The warm-up music before he and his Silver Bullet Band hit the stage Thursday night, March 26, at The Palace? John Fogerty's "The Old Man Down the Road," a wry nod perhaps to Seger's elder statesman status in the rock 'n' roll world and to the 70th birthday that looms on May 6. And maybe a bit of a reference to the retirement talk he's engaged in during the past 18 months.

But while Thursday's concert offered plenty of old time rock 'n' roll as Seger's fans have come to expect it -- particularly at home in the Detroit area -- there wasn't anything old or dated about it.

Stuffing 22 songs into just under two hours and covering all the essential musical bases, Seger's show -- his Ride Out Tour's sole Motor City stop -- was a timeless delight, an exposition of songs that were built to last by a performer who himself has stood the test of time and aged with a combination of passion and grace that allows him to deliver the likes of "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" as convincingly as he did when they were released. If anything, the latter carried even greater resonance when sung by a 69-year-old Seger, whose long career adds additional layers of meaning that were certainly felt by a boomer-dominated crowd that treated Seger's songs like they were revered religious hymns.

On Thursday Seger -- who hosted a special band dinner the night before at Orchard Lake Country Club -- was in strong voice, at least until the encores, and in fine spirits. Following a solid opening set by Flint country rocker Whitey Morgan & the 78's, Seger greeted The Palace with a hearty "Deee-troit!" before the opening piano notes of "Roll Me Away" and declared that "There ain't no place like home" before "The Fire Down Below." He even promised that "summer's coming, Michigan" during "Night Moves."

It didn't hurt, either, that he was fronting what is arguably the strongest version of the Silver Bullet Band yet -- certainly the most populous and facile yet with up to 15 members strong. Guitarist Rob McNelly shined on solos during "The Fire Down Below," "Like a Rock" and "Her Strut," while longtime Silver Bullet saxophonist Alto Reed was crowd-pleasing as ever during "Mainstreet," "Old Time Rock and Roll" and his signature "Turn the Page." The Motor City Horns continue to expand Seger's arrangements, even pumping more life (if that's possible) into "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" on Thursday, and Don Brewer's drumming, especially during the segue between "Travelin' Man" and "Beautiful Loser," was a force of nature that maintained a solid rock core throughout the night.

The new material from Seger's "Ride Out" album benefited from the group's exuberance, too, whether it was the charged social consciousness of "It's Your World," the full-throttle fury of John Hiatt's "Detroit Made" or the reflective "All of the Roads." Seger dedicated "The Fireman's Talkin'," meanwhile, to his brother-in-law, a Phoenix fire fighter who was in town for the show.

Another nice moment; dedicating "Against The Wind," to Reed's mother, "92 years young" and sitting down front throughout the night.

Seger wraps up the tour with two more dates -- Saturday in Nashville and Monday in Indianapolis (rescheduled from a March 22 postponement due to a pinched nerve) -- and if Thursday's show does prove to be Seger's last in these parts, he's going out a winner. Then again, The Palace issued a press release during the show noting that it was Seger's 16th sell-out at the arena -- tying Neil Diamond.

That sounds like a pretty good argument for at least one more show.



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