Bob Seger's Rock 'n Roll Swan Song • The Legendary Legacy of a Michigan Minstrel

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   By: Robert E Martin

15th June, 2019     0

Catching one of Bob Seger’s ‘Farewell’ appearances at DTE Energy Music Theatre (aka Pine Knob) on Weds., June 12th was an equally impressive and melancholic experience: impressive because at the age of 74 Seger still has that soul-wrenching power of his vocal pipes in working order; and melancholic because he’s only 10 years older than myself and it seems like within the blink of an eye I was standing in the front row at Daniels Den on any given Friday night watching him regularly perform with both of our futures wide open.

Of course, this was way before Bob’s Hollywood Nights, when his full-blown national success beyond the realm of the one-hit-wonder was still 4 years away; and when the youth movement (myself included) was going to change the social landscape of the world and other seminal  Michigan bands like the MC5, The Stooges, The Frost, SRC, and The Rationals were going to change the revolutionary face of modern music in the same manner that San Francisco had in the late 60’s.

Some of us made it and others didn’t; dreams dissipate with the brutal realities of what must be done to achieve them; and apart from Iggy Pop, Seger is the only Michigan rock artist from that list to build a true body of work spanning decades that on this second of several live appearances, filled me with a warm appreciation for not only his gifts, but his impressive body of work.

With a capacity crowd at DTE (all of his six shows have sold out) Seger and the Silver Bullet Band broke out with a tough and tight reading of Shakedown, with the Motor City Horn Section, including saxophonist Alto Reed, who has been with Seger since 1976 kicking fresh life into the bright syncopation of the melodic line.

And while he played his expected contemporary hits such as Still the Same, Fire Down Below, and Rock ‘n Roll Never Forgets, along with all the other tired (albeit popular) war-horses he’s been dragging around on tour for the last 15 years, what saved the evening and reinvigorated my faith in Seger’s artistry was his willingness to dig into deeper less familiar material - several songs that he said had not been performed in 26 years.

Personally, my favorite period of Bob Seger’s illustrious career was in that period from 1968 to 1975 - before he hit huge with Night Moves - when the Bob Seger System was touring and recording such memorable songs as Tales of Lucy Blue, Down Home, 2 +2, Lucifer, Noah and Big River - songs that an entire generation is unfamiliar with but still resonate strongly as the best in his lexicon of work that for some unfathomable reason, he has refused to perform or even re-release for a new generation to absorb and appreciate.

This being said, some of the musical highlights at this Farewell performance were his translations of Main Street, which carried an emotive vibrancy livelier and more engaging than the recorded studio version, along with the songs where Bob stepped away from the mic to pick up a guitar and turn in fresh translations of Shame on the Moon and Traveling’ Man.

The true highlights were the more personal moments, such as when Bob reflected upon a period where he was single for about three years and went on to write The Fire Inside, which never really went anywhere, but one year later he got a letter from Billboard Magazine saying it was the biggest single of the year at a time where the entire notion of ‘singles’ and ‘vinyl’ were disappearing from the landscape.

Another poignant moment was when Bob reflected upon his relationship with the late Glenn Frey of The Eagles, whom he befriended back when Frey was still in high school and who sang back-up vocals on Seger’s first national hit, Ramblin’ Gambling Man. He performed a song the two wrote together that was never recorded and then did one of the best renditions of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young that I have ever heard.

All-in-all it was a memorable evening and I highly recommend catching one of these final performances from a Michigan musical legend as they weave their way through the touring landscape.

 

 

 

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