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DTE show lets Bob Seger resume relationship with iconic venue

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Sitting in the living room of a house he keeps in northern Oakland County during a break from his last tour, Bob Seger discounted perceptions that he doesn’t like to play outdoors, or during the summer.

“Oh, I don’t mind summer, I really don’t,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer said. “I’ve always wanted to do DTE (Energy Music Theatre). We haven’t done it in years.”

Seger — and the fans who have long wanted to see the same thing — get their wish this week.

Seger and his Silver Bullet Band bring the new Runaway Train Tour, which launched Aug. 24 in Toledo — to DTE on Saturday, Sept. 9, for a show that sold out entirely via a fan club pre-sale. There’s no question it’s a significant appearance. It’s his 27th appearance at the venue overall, and his first since June of 1996. It will also be Seger’s first show since the name was changed from Pine Knob.

It resumes a relationship with the amphitheater that sits alongside other metro area venues with which Seger has long-term affinities. If Cobo Arena was “the house that Bob built,” then Pine Knob was for many years his summer home.

“It was always something special when he came home to play for us, the closest thing to rock ’n’ roll church,” recalls Bingham Farms-based radio consultant Fred Jacobs, a former program director at rock radio station WRIF. “It was magical hearing ‘Night Moves’ under the stars at Pine Knob.”

Seger was first scheduled to play Pine Knob as part of a Good Vibes Night package on July 24, 1972, when his local prominence was well established, though he was still building his national identity. The one-two punch of the “Live Bullet” and “Night Moves” albums during the mid-’70s made Seger a multi-night attraction, with a record-setting eight shows in 1977 during which he previewed “Feel Like A Number” and “The Famous Final Scene” from the following year’s “Stranger In Town” album and dedicated “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” to Elvis Presley on Aug. 16, the day he died. Seger played another seven shows at Pine Knob during 1978, three in 1980, five in 1986 and another pair a decade later, which featured special guest appearances by former Silver Bullet Band drummer Charlie Martin.

Pine Knob/DTE also has been the site of some notable Seger cameos. He sang an encore version of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” with Bob Dylan and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers during June 1986 and joined Three Doors Down to re-create his guest appearance on the group’s “Landing In London” during August 2005. And when Kid Rock tied Seger’s record for most appearances by an act during one summer in 2013 (Rock broke it two years later), Seger was on hand to sing a couple of songs at the final show of the run.

But Seger’s most legendary Pine Knob story possibly occurred backstage on Sept. 2, 1978, when he met Bruce Springsteen for the first time, resulting in an iconic photograph of the two by Seger aide-de-camp Thomas Weschler.

Springsteen had an off night between shows in Detroit and Saginaw and was looking for something to do. Ken Calvert, a Detroit radio personality who at the time was working regional promotions for Columbia Records, Springsteen’s label, suggested checking out the Seger show.

“(Springsteen) was like, ‘I’ve never seen Bob Seger!’ so we went,” Calvert remembers. “They really hit it off, so much so that (Springsteen) invited (Seger) to Saginaw the next night. I gotta be honest, it was pretty cool.”

Seger subsequently joined Springsteen on stage at Ann Arbor’s Crisler Arena in 1980 and at The Palace of Auburn Hills during April of 2016.

Seger and the Silver Bullets also will perform the closing show at The Palace on Sept. 23, while the Runaway Train Tour has dates booked into early November. More shows are expected to be announced into 2018, and Seger has been working on a new album — the follow-up to 2014’s “Ride Out” — whose release date is being determined.

Back in 2013, Seger floated the idea of retiring, but the fact he’s back on the road four years later, at age 72, indicates that may not be as imminent as he suggested.

“I gotta say, I take it tour by tour,” he said during his last trek. “I’ll tell you why it’s fun. The band is so dedicated and they really cover me well. The girls lift me up and the horns lift me up and it’s just ... good, you know? I remember I had a conversation with Glenn (Frey) after the Detroit Music Awards once and he said, ‘Bob, I’m so grateful to be able to get up there, still. It’s so much fun.’

“I didn’t get it at the time, but I get it now. And it is.”

If You Go:

• Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band’s Saturday, Sept. 9, show at the DTE Energy Music Theatre is sold out. Larkin Poe opens at 7:30 p.m.

• Seger and company close the Palace of Auburn Hills on Sept. 23. Some tickets remain. Nancy Wilson of Heart’s Roadcase Royale opens.

• Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com for both shows.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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