Thursday, December 28
Compared with many of the musical eccentrics who have called the Motor City home at one time or another (IGGY POP, ALICE COOPER, TED NUGENT), BOB SEGER has always seemed like a pretty normal sort of guy. Meet him in a bar, and he might just buy you a beer, not break the bottle over the rail and start carving hieroglyphics into his reptilian torso (a la Iggy). Alice, of course, would be too busy in the deepest, darkest corner playing with his snakes and perfecting his guillotine (and golf swing) to pay you much mind. And Ted... well... Ted would be hanging his latest antlered sacrifice on the paneled wall, sucking down a gallon of Jack and a jarful o' jerky (the latter courtesy of his latest antlered sacrifice), and still singing the misty-eyed praises of the Reagan Revolution.
Which is in no way to suggest that Mr. Seger is some sort of priss or pansy. Just listen to early, balls-to-the-wall rockers like "RAMBLIN' GAMBLIN' MAN" and "KATMANDU" (or even the later "HER STRUT") and you'll be rid of that misconception right quick. But this much is true: the man is certainly known as much for his anthemic ballads as his "balls-to-the-wall rockers" (hell, "WE'VE GOT TONIGHT" was covered by KENNY ROGERS & SHEENA EASTON, for crying out loud). There's also the undeniable fact that, if the younger generation knows this guy at all, it's as the former voice of Chevy trucks (damn that young whippersnapper JOHN "THIS IS OUR COUNTRY" MELLENCAMP!) and as the soundtrack to TOM CRUISE's tighty-whitey two-step, circa 1983.
Seger's street cred may well have taken another hit when, after releasing his last album of the '90s (1995's IT'S A MYSTERY), he semi-retired to his Michigan home to (gasp) spend time with his wife and kids. In retrospect, that long break looked like it might come to an end early in the new millenium, as it was then that Seger seemingly rediscovered his muse and began work on new material. Alas, no new record emerged, and suddenly it began to appear as though the man's "semi-retirement" might just become a permanent thing.
Well, not so. This past year saw not only the release of the full-length FACE THE PROMISE, but also the first tour for Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band since 1996. Tonight, the band will play the third of four sold-out shows at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where Seger's loyal metro Detroit fans will dutifully hold their lighters aloft and sing along to all the old favorites and -- who knows? -- maybe to some of the new stuff, too.
Speaking of the new stuff... I've been surprised to read so many four-star reviews of FACE THE PROMISE. In a way, I can't help but think that these are being produced by a bevy of graying baby boomers flush with nostalgia for Seger's mid-'70s to mid-80s heyday. Not that it's a BAD record, exactly -- just a bit on the sterile and insular side. For a man whose breakthrough recording, in a lot of ways, was 1978's combustible LIVE BULLET, the years away from the road have clearly had something of a stagnating effect. Perhaps taking a cue from his own "STILL THE SAME," Seger has constructed his songs in the old, familiar ways. A mix of would-be classic rockers and ballads, FACE THE PROMISE employs the usual amounts of tasteful piano and keyboards, the occasional blast of sax, and the by-now-generic, "colored girls say doo do doo do," Motown/gospel girl backing vocals. On first listen, the title track has a certain welcome heft to it -- with its snaky riff and solid-like-a-rock backbeat. But that riff ultimately plays out as a by-the-numbers, down-by-the-Bayou exericise in showing the world that a 61-year-old man can still rock out like a teenager. And it doesn't help that the lyrics seem supplied by Rand McNally and some fill-in-the-blank songwriting software program.
Seger's collaboration with fellow Detroiter KID ROCK (on the VINCE GILL tune "REAL MEAN BOTTLE") works better -- if only because the two of them seem to be having such a blast singing the thing. Maybe -- just maybe -- Seger's current tour will inspire him to get back into the studio sooner rather than later, and to take a more devil-may-care approach to the recording of his next album. In the meantime, the man's voice remains as warm, craggy, and comforting as ever. And we'll always have his earlier work to come back to -- like that corner dive bar you just can't seem to find a reason to stop frequenting. The one where, on any given night, you might just run into a guy who looks and sounds a hell of a lot like Bob Seger. And where he might just buy you that beer.
Dec. 28, Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit
Dec. 30, Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit
Jan. 13, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa
Jan. 16, Charlotte, N.C.
Jan. 20, Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Conn.
Jan. 25, Madison Square Garden, New York
Jan. 27, TD Banknorth Garden, Boston
Feb. 6, Oklahoma City
Feb. 8, American Airlines Center, Dallas
Feb. 10, ALLTEL Arena, N. Little Rock, Ark.
Feb. 12, Toyota Center, Houston
From the LP FACE THE PROMISE, 2006 >>>
[MP3] REAL MEAN BOTTLE [w/KID ROCK]
[MP3] NO MORE
BONUS TRACKS >>>
[MP3] TURN THE PAGE
[MP3] NIGHT MOVES
[MP3] HER STRUT
[MP3] ROLL ME AWAY
[MP3] RAMBLIN' GAMBLIN' MAN
[MP3] 2 + 2 = ?
[MP3] LITTLE DRUMMER BOY