Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Concert Review; Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Tuesday January 23/07 A.C.C. Toronto

Bob Seger represents many things to many people. To plenty of rock fans, unfortunately, he penned the theme song for Ford, heard regularly in commercials for about twenty years now. To others, Bob recorded more than his share of classic rock n' roll, and enjoys one of the most loyal fan bases in the business. To others still, Bob Seger is some old rocker who gained success from Hollywood in the 1980's when two of his songs were featured in immensely popular movies ("Old Time Rock n' Roll" in Risky Business, "Shakedown" in Beverly Hills Cop II, not to mention songs in a few non-blockbuster movies). The Harley Davidson and Jack Daniels t-shirts adorned by so many fans at his concerts can't do much to dispel people's conceptions about Bob Seger, favourable or not. On the cover of the new c.d. Bob is on a Harley under an open Midwest sky. On the other hand, Bob Seger rarely sings about getting drunk, and he doesn't have many songs about riding motorbikes either. In fact, Seger's back catalogue has a high proportion of songs about failed relationships. To borrow from one of the few covers he played at the A.C.C. Tuesday night, "You Never Can Tell".
To those fans of Bob Seger before "Like A Rock", the man and the Silver Bullet Band have always represented musical integrity, and hard working live gigs to cement the faith. Bob's two double live albums are testaments to the energetic shows he was putting on for many years. The touring dropped off as the eighties wore on, and Bob Seger has toured about once a decade since the mid 1980's. This might be his last road trip, with Toronto the only Canadian stop.
"Face The Promise" is Bob's first new c.d. in many years, and several of its songs have caught on. The disc is selling well, so the A.C.C. was predictably full. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band must have been thrilled by the nearly full house, after so many years off the road. They hit the stage shortly before nine o'clock.
"Roll Me Away" kicked off the show, but it was marred by a poor sound system which muffled Bob's singing and at other times drowned out Alto Reed's baritone saxophone playing. The sound improved marginally over the next few songs until it finally sounded alright.
The second song was a tried and true crowd pleaser, "Trying To Live My Life Without You". The band started to sound better over the course of this song, but they were still searching for the knock-out punch quality of their live records. The Silver Bullet Band has a few additions, too. Bob has had the same back up singers for decades, and veterans Chris Campbell and Alto Reed are still around. Don Brewer (fellow Michigander and ex-Grand Funk Railroad drummer) is back on the road with Bob. Guitarist Mark Chatfield is another relative newcomer, as is Jim "Moose" Brown, who is helping out with guitars and keyboards. The live arrangements were fairly straightforward. Alto Reed played the solos on "Main Street" faithfully to the record, but the band did get to stretch out on occasion. Reed was augmented by the four piece Motor City Horns. Bob still alternates between playing guitar and piano on some songs, like "We've Got Tonight". For some reason, the guitar technicians in charge of having the correct guitar tuned and ready for the next song seemed to take an unusually long time to exchange instruments with the Silver Bullet players. The show continued with a mix of new songs like "Wreck This Heart" and "Face the Promise" and vintage Seger standards like "Old Time Rock n' Roll" and "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight".
As the band slowly loosened up, Bob delivered an excellent rendition of "Turn The Page" before wrapping up with the "Travelling Man" and "Beautiful Loser" medley that is on "Live Bullet".
There was a brief intermission before the band resumed with some new material. Bob introduced the next song as dating from 1968, which of course referred to his first hit, "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man". That got the audience on its feet, although the song's pounding organ wasn't loud enough in the A.C.C. mix. The next song was a Chuck Berry cover; many long time fans were probably expecting to hear "Let It Rock" which the Silver Bullet Band has played for many years, but surprisingly the band burst into "You Never Can Tell". There were a few more new songs featured during the second set, along with "The Horizontal Bop" and "Katmandu". The band left the stage, but there was no doubt encores were certainly pending. Many of Seger's best loved tracks were played, but of course some omissions were certainly missed. "Like A Rock" was conspicuously absent from the set list, but fans of Seger's older material probably didn't mind. As predictable an encore as it might have been, Seger played older favourites "Night Moves" and "Hollywood Nights" instead. After another brief pause, the final two encores played were "Against The Wind" and the particularly appropriate "Rock n' Roll Never Forgets", with its topic of simultaneous aging and rocking. The concert ran for a couple of hours, and the Silver Bullet Band was in fine form by the end of the show. Unfortunately the sound problems at the start of the show did nothing to help the band relax and gel. Bob still sings much better than one would expect of a sixty year old, long semi-retired rocker, and his back-up singers have held up well over the decades as well. The Silver Bullet Band took a while to find their groove but once they did, they reminded the audience why Bob Seger's live output rivals his best studio work. This is probably the last chance fans will have to catch Bob Seger in concert, so check him out if you can.

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