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Remembering Bob Seger's key tours as he hits the road one last time
Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet Band head out, as the song says, on the road again this week.
And he says it will be the last time.
Opening Wednesday, Nov. 21, in Grand Rapids, Travelin' Man-The Final Tour has dates booked into May — mostly at this point make-ups for the Runaway Train Tour that was postponed last September in order for Seger to undergo spinal surgery. More dates, including some closer to home in the metro Detroit area, are expected to be added once the tour is up and running.
Seger, a Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, has been talking about coming off the road since the mid-'80s. This time, however, he apparently means it. Back in 2014 he said that, "I don't know how much more there is to prove. I wouldn't mind putting out one more record, one last swan song. ... It's been a great run. It's amazing how much airplay we've gotten down through the years.
"I don't want to overstay my welcome."
But last December, after the release of his latest album, "I Knew You When," as he was recuperating, Seger clearly felt there was unfinished business.
"It was going so good, the tour was," he said. "They were playing so great, the band. Oh my God, I hated to stop. I feel like we've got to do at least do these 20 (postponed concerts) that are outstanding. We have to honor that. ... So that's the first thing we've got to do and we'll probably add some more from there."
Of course, Seger has played thousands — no exaggeration — of concerts over the years and staked his reputation as a live act, the reason Billboard magazine gave him one of its Legend of Live awards. If this truly is the last time, then, we thought it would be valuable to look at the key tours during his career — not everything, but the ones that were game-changers and have become legendary.
Travelin' Man ... 1975-76
Seger and company were well seasoned by thousands of concerts before this trek. But the arrival of what was then considered his best album, "Beautiful Loser," put a bit more propulsion behind the jet — which included the recording of the "Live Bullet" album Sept. 4-5, 1975 at Cobo Arena in Detroit and a summer 1976 tour opening for Kiss, whose Paul Stanley said the Silver Bullets "delivered the goods. ... That always made us work harder." The tour also included a date with a pre-"Comes Alive" Peter Frampton at MSU Auditorium in East Lansing, while a headlining show on June 26, 1976, at the Pontiac Silverdome was a special segue into what lay ahead.
Old Time Rock and Roll ... 1976-78>/b>
Seger and the Silver Bullets just kept rolling, from "Beautiful Loser" throughout his two breakthrough albums, 1976's "Night Moves" and "Stranger in Town" two years later. Coming off the Kiss tour, the group maintained mostly headline dates — though it did open a few shows for Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult and Foghat — riding the success of "Night Moves." Highlights included eight shows at Pine Knob (now DTE Energy Music Theatre, near Clarkston) during the summer of 1977 — a record that stood for nearly 40 years — and fall 1977 dates in the U.K., Germany and France. Seger's most concentrated continuous touring period wrapped on New Year's Eve, 1978, in St. Louis.
His Strut ... 1980
Seger supported "Against the Wind," his sole No. 1 and last multiplatinum album — as well as his only Grammy Award winner (Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Best Recording Package) — with eight solid months of touring that yielded his second live album, "Nine Tonight." This trek was the last for guitarist Drew Abbott and drummer David Teegarden as Silver Bullet Band members and included six nights at Cobo Arena and three at Pine Knob. Things wrapped up in November with two dates at London's Wembley Arena, Seger's last performing trip across the pond.
Storming America ... 1986-87
After what felt like a truncated tour during 1983, Seger pushed his "Like A Rock" album with another eight-month epic road trip that played to nearly 1.5 million fans around North America. It also featured an expanded edition of the Silver Bullet Band bolstered by all-stars such as Bill Payne and Fred Tackett of Little Feat, future Fleetwood Mac fill-in Rick Vito and multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero from John Mellencamp's band. The shows included an unreleased song, "Yesterday Rules," written for but not included in the soundtrack for the hit film "Back to the Future." The storm subsided March 8, 1987, after seven shows at Joe Louis Arena, and it would be nine years before he hit the road again. Seger had already broached the possibility of retiring from the road, saying at the time that, "I'm committed to these guys who have been with me for a long time. I told them they're gonna make a large amount of money on this tour and that I don't want them counting on another one. I have that option."
Locked and Loaded ... 2006-07
Touring for only the second time in two decades, Seger was energized by a hot new album, "Face the Promise," and also, he acknowledged, by a Detroit Pistons' NBA championship that inspired the track "Simplicity." The tour introduced some key new faces to the Silver Bullet lineup — multi-instrumentalist Jim "Moose" Brown, a Nashville session cat and writer who had attended Birmingham Groves High School during his teens, and the four-piece Motor City Horns section — who remain to this day. Longtime Silver Bullet keyboardist Craig Frost said at the time, "I've never seen him more happy on a tour in my entire experience with him. He's genuinely having fun up there. You can see it." Two returns to Cobo Arena, which "Live Bullet" devotees like to call "The House That Bob Built," during March of 2007 put an exclamation point on the successful venture.
Rock and Roll Never Forgets ... 2011
Seger was between albums when he set off on his two-leg Rock and Roll Never Forgets Tour in March 2011 — he actually suspended work on what became 2014's "Ride Out" in order to take a Silver Bullet ride that year. He had released two compilations, "Early Seger, Vol. 1" in 2009 and "Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets" earlier in the year. That allowed him to loosen up the set list a bit, adding rarities such as "Good For Me," "Gets Ya Pumpin'" and "Long Twin Silver Line," returning Ike & Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits" and Willie Mitchell's "Come to Poppa" to the set and bringing out his Special Olympics-benefitting version of "Little Drummer Boy" for some seasonal shows. He even deviated from his usual opener, "Roll Me Away," to kick off an Ypsilanti show with "Feel Like a Number." The trek also brought Seger back into stadiums for a headlining appearance at the Orlando Calling festival, with Kid Rock on the bill. Bruce Springsteen hopped on stage for "Old Time Rock and Roll" on Dec. 1 at New York's Madison Square Garden," while Jane Fonda posted a tribute to Seger on her website after he spoke about how she inspired "Her Strut" during a show in Los Angeles.
• If you go: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band's tour kicks off Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. Visit bobseger.com for all the tour dates so far.
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