Click here to view a full slideshow of photos from the Bob Seger concert at BankAtlantic Center.
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
BankAtlantic Center, Fort Lauderdale
Thursday,December 12, 2012
Better than: The majority of rockers who are only a fraction of his age.
White-haired, slightly expanded around the middle and boasting wire-rim glasses, Bob Seger bears a closer resemblance these days to a benevolent grandfather than to the blue-collar rocker of decades past. But looks can be deceiving. All you have to do is close your eyes as he wails away on one of his radio-ready anthems, and that image of the once-tireless road warrior reappears.
Even so, the more mature Seger remains age-appropriate, especially given
the lyric to one of his signature songs: "Call me a relic, call me what
you will / Say I'm old-fashioned, say I'm over the hill... I reminisce
about the days of old / With that old time rock and roll."
His vocals may lack the brash bellow and expressive authority for which he was once famous, and though he shuffles more than struts these days, Seger still delivers. Last night, over the course of nearly two searing, spell-binding hours, Seger and his 14-piece Silver Bullet Band demonstrated a passion and stamina that would tire performers half their age.
The band, especially, serves as a support ensemble that's every bit as able as Springsteen's E Street brigade or Petty's Heartbreakers. The ensemble rotated on and off stage as the set list demanded, congregating in force for the rockers and thinning out for more subtle songs.
Saxophonist Alto Reed is still an ideal foil, his mournful call to arms on "Turn the Page" and relentless riffing throughout "Old Time Rock and Roll" getting a guaranteed audience response. Reed remains the perpetual showman, a cheerleader of sorts who commands attention from the fringes of his boss's spotlight while adapting his best rocker posture.
The band's other longtime veterans -- bassist Chris Campbell, vocalist Shaun Murphy, keyboard player Craig Frost and ex-Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer in particular -- prove equally adept at giving Seger the solid foundation and propulsive pull that's inherent within his greatest hits. Many of these were duly performed: "Hollywood Nights," "Night Moves," "Beautiful Loser," "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" and "Still the Same," to name just a few of the 20-odd songs included in the concert. (For the record, one could still quibble with the show's exclusion of "Like a Rock," "You'll Accomp'ny Me," "Still the Same" and "Fire Lake.")
Even so, most of the credit is due Seger himself for accomplishing what could be considered a grand comeback. His workman-like delivery and affable attitude proved a winning combination. He also still manages to wring emotion from vulnerable anthems like "We've Got Tonight," "Mainstreet," "Roll Me Away," "Turn the Page" and "Against the Wind," confirming the fact that he's always been an underrated songwriter and a credible crooner.
Seger genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself as he encouraged the audience's enthusiasm by playing to both sides of the stage. Consequently, practically every song became a sing-along with the nearly sold-out audience remaining on their feet throughout.
Likewise, when he took the occasional turn on piano and acoustic guitar, he wasn't relegated to any incidental contribution. He made an incisive impression on the melodies that stood out from the accompanying instrumentation. Seger was still in charge and as authoritative as ever.
Opening act Frankie Ballard proved compatible with the tone and tenacity of the show overall. His four-piece band showed their stage savvy and enthusiastic covers of John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" (which Ballard graciously dedicated to our military men and women) They proved especially appropriate for the occasion. Ballard's patented rock star moves and expressive guitar work suggested he might have star potential of his own as well. "He's cute," my wife Alisa confided, but all I could concede was that he had good hair, perfect for any pose.
Personal bias: I worked with Bob Seger when I was a promotion manager for Capitol Records back in the day -- I still have the tour jacket and gold records given me by his management. So reconnecting with his music had a emotional appeal for me. To quote another of his songs, "These are the memories that make me a wealthy soul...."
Random detail: It's funny that these days Seger resembles Kenny Rogers in his genteel appearance, although he clearly reflects the energy and exhilaration he exuded as a younger rocker.
By the Way: It was pretty cool to meet drummer Don Brewer backstage, since it gave me the chance to tell him I caught him and Grand Funk in London's Hyde Park in 1971 at a free concert that found them headlining over Humble Pie. "That was pretty special for us," Brewer recalled. It was for me as well, I assured him.
Roll Me Away
Tryin' To Live My Life Without You
Fire Down Below
Old Time Rock and Roll
Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Hey Hey Hey Hey (Going Back to Birmingham)
Travelin' Man/Beautiful Loser
We've Got Tonight
Nutbush City Limits
Come to Poppa
Real Mean Bottle
Turn the Page
Against the Wind
Rock and Roll Never Forget