–BOB SEGER AND THE SILVER BULLET BAND: Live at Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mich., 03-05-13

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–BOB SEGER AND THE SILVER BULLET BAND: Live at Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, Mich., 03-05-13

“Timeless,” “classic,” “legendary”: too often these adjectives come across as a bunch of tired, pithy clichés. Not for Bob Seger. So many of these aging classic rockers are long-retired, or simply are content to rest on their laurels by cashing in with endless nostalgia-driven “greatest hits” tours. Not so with Bob Seger. Rather, Michigan’s own born-and-bred, Seger, at age 67 is still rocking like it’s 1967. The dynamic singer/songwriter brought his impressive Silver Bullet Band to Grand Rapids on Tuesday night for his “Rock and Roll Never Forgets Tour,” and he proved to a sold-out Van Andel Arena crowd that he still has that “fire down below,” and that truly great music is timeless, indeed.

I wonder if 45-plus-year veterans of the music scene such as Seger marvel at the universality of their music in 2013. Not only has their original fan base grown up right alongside them, but they have brought along their children, grand children and friends of their grand children along to enjoy the show. It is doubtful that Seger, who modeled much of his music on the original wave of rock and roll that freaked out so many parents watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, ever intended his show to be a family-friendly act. Regardless, it is what is, and the diversity of Seger’s audience approximates the diversity of his masterful song craft.

Not surprisingly, Seger’s stage setup for this tour is simple and no-frills, featuring a three-tiered riser with the drum set in the middle and a lone tympani set mysteriously atop the third tier. The lineup composition of The Silver Bullet Band, of course, is anything but basic. The stage provides ample room for nearly 15 band members, including three female background singers elevated on stage left and the four-member Motor City Horns on the other side of the riser. Additionally, two large video screens gave the nose-bleeders in the upper decks a better view, and numerous colored lights provided effective mood lighting at strategic points throughout the set. scan0001 cropped

From the start, Seger and the Silver Bullet boys (and gals) delivered the surprises as well as the hits. They opened the show with a brand new song, a mid-tempo cover of “John Hiatt’s “Detroit Made” that started the blood slowly simmering, followed by Nine Tonight’s lesser-known funky ditty “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You.” The hits started rolling with a rousing rendition” of “Fire Down Below,” and Alto Reed’s pristine alto sax melody highlighted the first gorgeously plaintive ballad of the set, Seger’s ode to his hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich., “Mainstreet.” From there, they got the crowd rocking and rolling with the iconic opening piano riff of “Old Time Rock & Roll,” a tune that inspired plenty of old-time swaying and dancing. Seger’s brand new acoustic ballad, “All the Roads,” while far from groundbreaking, is at the least melodic and emotive, showing he remains inspired enough to write good songs. As for The Silver Bullet Band itself – featuring lead guitarist Rob McNelley, longtime bassist Chris Campbell and pianist Craig Frost, Reed (who manned that peculiar tympani on “Come to Poppa”) and Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer – it performed as tightly as a 14-person rock ensemble can. The band invoked swagger on the muscular, guitar-driven, “Her Strut,” while the chipper, up-tempo traditional rock and roll of “Katmandu” and “Sunspot Baby” kept the energy level in the building riding high.

For me, Seger has always been at his best when he is at his most contemplative and melodic, and, oftentimes, mellow. His most poetic and emotional songs champion youthful exploration and soul-searching, lament lost love and the pangs of life’s biggest disappointments, cherish sweet distant memories, as fleeting as they are beautiful, and celebrate all the ups and downs of life’s journey as equally poignant, equally worth living. No, Seger did not “Roll Me Away” without singing about a literal and spiritual cross-country trip on a motorcycle. Nor did he “Turn the Page” on the concert without detailing the toils and frustrations of the life of a touring musician. Yes, “We’ve Got the Night” for an innocent and desperate love affair, all the while reflecting upon our metaphorical travels while running “Against The Wind,” and thinking longingly about all those long-lost “Night Moves” with a beautiful young lady on a hot summer night by the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Sure, Seger’s voice might not be quite as powerful as it once was, and his old-fashioned brand of rock music may not seem as relevant in today’s increasingly electronic and jaded musical landscape. He may not be able to play all of everyone’s favorites in one show, impossible as it is with a back catalog well into the double digits. But the emotions evoked are still authentic, universal and divinely human. That’s more than enough for a great rock and roll show in 2013.–Jonathan Kollnot

–Approximate Setlist: 1.) Detroit Made (John Hiatt cover) 2.) Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You (Otis Clay cover) 3.) The Fire Down Below 4.) Mainstreet 5.) Old Time Rock & Roll 6.) All the Roads 7.) Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man 8.) Nutbush City Limits (Ike & Tine Turner cover) 9.) Like a Rock 10.) Travelin’ Man 11.) Beautiful Loser 12.) Roll Me Away 13.) Come to Poppa 14.) Her Strut 15.) California Stars (Wilco Cover) 16.) We’ve Got Tonight 17.) Turn the Page 18.) Sunspot Baby 19.) Katmandu. Encore: Against the Wind, Hollywood Nights. Encore 2: Night Moves, Rock and Roll Never Forgets

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on March 8, 2013.

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