White hair. White beard. It's December. I just described what one of the most successful and yet undervalued rock stars of all-time currently looks like, but even at 69 years of age his wonderfully spirited on-stage style has not been dampened by the years of time. Seger is still the fist pumping, foot stomping roots rock & roller he has been since his first run on vinyl some 45 years ago.
Bob Seger is one of the most definitive acts of the classic rock era. He is American to the core and he is rock & roll at its purest and finest. His unpretentious and non-elitist brand of rock sets the tone for the time capsule of that now bygone era. When people say rock & roll is dead they are stating truth. We will most likely never hear original music on this level ever again. Occasionally an act may come out of nowhere to loose the overhang of the roots of rock, but as an en masse brand it is over. Which is why in many ways this music is still so beloved, cherished and even adored. I personally know several "young" people who love Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Journey, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin and of course the big kahuna of them all, the Beatles.
Seger is a master craftsman and a superb artist both vocally and stylistically. His compositions of thoughtful storytelling weaving us through the landmarks of life (love, romance, work and the American heartland) continue to tug at the soul. Last night in front of a sold-out crowd at Chicago's United Center he delivered the goods.
His brand of music is clearly the most trusted root of rock with a nip of country and a nip of blues depending on which classic Seger song you have plugged into. He even manages to deliver some of the subtlest of ballads. When he sits down at the piano to intro one of the most beautiful ballads of the last 40 years he shares that this particular song was his mom's favorite composition of his. I kind of knew where we were going and the opening notes served a hauntingly stunning We've Got Tonight. Get emotional time.
He opened the evening with the explosive Roll Me Away. The descriptive of America as a geographical destination as well as a concept is all over those lyrics and music.
His sit-down guitar time on the title track of his only number one album, Against the Wind had the mid-30s' guy sitting next to us crying. He eventually shared with us that this was his dad's favorite Seger song. The guy's father passed away two years ago, but he shared Seger's music with his dad. Clearly, this was an emotional night for many in the UC house.
Seger's blue collar, non-political, non-angst ridden brilliance covered the masses last night while we all punched the air and stomped our feet to songs that have so much meaning. The poetic Turn the Page was executed superbly and it never fails to get me to sing along (along with everyone else in the venue). No one needed a prompter or big screen with lyrics. The words are embedded on our minds, hearts and lips. Main Street takes us down a sentimental path and Travelin' Man makes you want to stand erect and go on a road trip.
He of course, has to give the funders (a reasonably priced show) of the evening Old Time Rock & Roll. It was named as a song of the 20th century. Yes, he owes this one more to Tom Cruise than to his own spirited interpretation of his own song.
I anticipated the surety of a few moments of happiness and with Beautiful Loser I got my wish early on during the near two hour performance. Shy of two hours by only five minutes.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Seger still sounds great. If you had closed your eyes you never would have guessed it was 2014 and "Bobby" (his mom called him Bobby) was pushing 70. I felt like I felt the night I saw him back when Night Moves was still charting on the Billboard 100.
He didn't perform several songs I love. He didn't perform You'll Accompany Me, Shakedown, Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight, Long Twin Silver Line (literally one of the greatest rock songs of all-time!) or Feel Like a Number (Mickey Rourke deserves credit for the early 80's resurrection of that classic). Seger could have been on the stage for another hour (why not?) if he played all of the songs we all still know and love.
His band (three members have been with him for a long time - Alto Reed, Chris Campbell, Craig Frost) is as tight as a pair of skinny jeans after a Thanksgiving meal and the lead guitarist (Seger's material is very lead guitar driven) is so good you find yourself paying attention to him as much as to Seger. Backing singers are talented and add to Seger's lyrical content more than the average singers on a stage with a lead act.
The J. Geils Band is the opening act and Peter Wolf still has enough manic energy to deliver a 45 minute set.
Seger is a must on a bucket list, so take advantage of this tour. I suspect his bucket list may include Detroit, Florida and football, even though he has a new album out and the songs (he performed several new songs) on it are all worthy of his formidable catalog.
I have been fortunate to see some of the giants in the last year and I say this all the time. Go and see these artists while you still are able and while they are still able. People are getting older and our days to enjoy these people who have brought so much to our lives will end one day. If for some reason I live to be 90 I will treasure my God, family, true friends and the music.
"I reminisce about the days of old with that old time rock & roll."
The U.S./Canada tour continues through March 7, 2015.
Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014