Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Toyota Center April 30, 2011
If Saturday night was supposed to be Bob Seger's final farewell to Houston on what is reported to be his last go-round through the country as a performer, then he picked a stellar set list: 25 songs full of history, reaching back to his first stirrings as a Detroit rocker in 1968 all the way to his newest single, a cover of Tom Waits' "Downtown Train" recorded in 1989, to serve as his Space City epitaph.
Even Rocks Off was floored by the width and size of his setlist, or how many songs he knew by heart, from growing up in a Seger house, or just fiddling with the radio. Guys like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and The Eagles are his contemporaries, but it has always seemed to us that it was Seger who was doing the real heavy lifting, devoid of Hollywood contacts and the attitudes that come with them.
Funny enough, Seger acted as Glenn Frey's mentor early on in the future Eagle's career, and Don Henley and Frey would assist on Seger albums down the line. We're talking about the Eagles mostly when we talk about coke-bloated excess, with Bruce just being so damned lovable that he can put out middling albums and make up for it with a physically-draining and God-like live show.
Opening with "Roll Me Away" from 1982's The Distance, Seger and his Silver Bullet Band took control over the venue with pure rock and rhythm-and-blues force. Not until you actually see Seger and his brood live do you understand the gravity of his influence on rock for the past 45 years.
Seger puts on the same sort of show the Boss does, defying the physics of his nearly 66-year old frame and the whispers of failing health. If anything on Sunday night he was acting a fraction of his age, punching the air like he was working a speed bag and jumping on a trampoline only he could see.
Seger seems to have always attracted those beautiful losers he sings about. Blame those everyman looks and the unabashedly stalwart voice in a catalog that rarely gets goofy or sarcastic, traits that people would rather leave at the door when they turn on a Seger record. Just listen to his "U.M.C. (Upper Middle Class)" from 1976's Live Bullet to hear him poke fun at what would be his calling card a decade or so later.
Saturday night, the band would play at least half of 1980's phenomenal Against The Wind throughout their set, with the varied fan-favorite slab aging more than gracefully these past 30 years. Not only does it contain the ace ass-shaking anthem "Her Strut," but it also has that title track, which got a heartfelt rendition during the first encore.
The best moments were arguably when Seger would take to the acoustic guitar out front or jump on piano. "Main Street" was an early highlight on the latter, with "We've Got Tonight" the next closest heartbreaker. The biggest reaction of the nearly three-hour show was for "Turn The Page," one of Seger's best-loved radio staples.
Seger has continued his history of covering Tom Waits cuts with this year's take on the croaking one's "Downtown Train" from his Rain Dogs LP. He's previously done Waits' "16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six," "Blind Love" and "New Coat Of Paint" on earlier albums. It took a second for even us to catch the Waits-ness.
All told, it was a stellar career-spanning revue of the past five decades of silver-bulleted Seger, touching on all working-class fist-pumpers, earnest lovelorn ballads, raunchy mattress-ready sin machines, and the damaged-wing dreamers, replaying real life back to all the beautiful losers, ramblin', gamblin', and travelin' men and women in the crowd.
Personal Bias: Listen to his early stuff from his Detroit rock days. You are welcome.
The Crowd: Decidedly older, decidedly hairier, and most definitely leatherier, than most older rock-show crowds.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Why didn't he play 'Like a Rock??"
Random Notebook Dump: We cannot think of Bob Seger without seeing Sam Elliot and Cher from Mask in our heads. It's not his, fault though, since it's a good movie and he and Springsteen dominated the soundtrack.
Roll Me Away Tryin' To Live My Life Without You (Otis Clay cover) The Fire Down Below Main Street Old Time Rock and Roll Downtown Train (Tom Waits cover) Ramblin' Gamblin' Man Gets Ya Pumpin' Good For Me Shinin' Brightly Travelin' Man Beautiful Loser
Nutbush City Limits (Tina Turner cover) Come to Poppa (Ann Peebles cover) Her Strut Real Mean Bottle We've Got Tonight Turn The Page Sunspot Baby The Horizontal Bop Katmandu
Against The Wind Hollywood Nights
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Night Moves Rock and Roll Never Forgets