Danny's Blog
Bob Seger rock and souls Phoenix

Want a recipe for some blues or funky old soul?  Take a dash of songs written by Tina Turner, Willie Mitchell, Eugene Williams and Little Richard.  Add a sprinkling of a four piece horn section along with a solo sax player. Mix in an organist and three backup singers.  Stir with a gravelly voiced fifty year touring veteran whose songwriting cuts to the core of Americana and you have Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band whose two hour rock and soul revue sated the appetite of a near sellout crowd at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona on December 23, 2011.  Call him a relic, but don’t call him over the hill. At 66, Bob Seger may have slowed a step or two, but he can still deliver a night of blues, soul and rock and roll.

Seger’s current tour is in support of the recently released Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets which meant the audience should not have expected any new material.  But with a backlog of hits as big as Bob Seger’s, isn’t that really what the audience wanted to hear anyway? Judging from the reception given to songs such “Old Time Rock and Roll,” “Turn the Page,”  and “Hollywood Nights,” the answer is a resounding yes.

From the start, Seger had the audience of his peers, at least age wise, dancing and singing along as he opened up with “Roll Me Away,” with long time Silver Bullet Band sax member Alto Reed displaying his skills as he carried his bass sax around the stage. The Motor City Horn section of John Rutherford, Mark Byerly, Keith Kaminski and Bob Jensen joined the group by the second number, “Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You,” the chorus of which was sung by the audience with gusto.  This would set the tempo for the rest of the night which switched back and forth from mellow numbers such as, “Mainstreet,” Seger’s ode to his hometown, and “We’ve Got Tonight,” inspired by a scene in the movie The Sting, to the upbeat “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” Seger’s first hit from 1968 and “Her Strut,” a song which Seger told the audience was about Jane Fonda.  With it being only two days away from Christmas, getting to hear Seger’s version of “Little Drummer Boy,” was a nice holiday treat.

There is a reason that Bob Seger shares his name with The Silver Bullet Band on the marquee, for it is The Silver Bullet Band that makes for the live show spectacle.  Long time bass player Chris Campbell, who has been with Seger since 1969, half of the four member version of Grand Funk Railroad, keyboardist Craig Frost and drummer Don Brewer, lead guitarist Kenny Greenberg, guitarist and keyboard player Jim Brown and backup singers Shaun Murphy, Laura Creamer and Barbara Payton along with the aforementioned Motor City Horns and saxist Alto Reed, all combine to bring out Seger’s vision of rock and roll with a lot of soul. When the band gets to be showcased in songs such as “Travelin’ Man” and “Katmandu” it appears Seger enjoys their work as much and maybe even more so than the audience.

Reed’s contributions on saxophone cannot be overlooked.  He is as essential to Seger’s music as the late Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band was to Bruce Springsteen’s. Reed’s haunting opening bars of “Turn the Page” are well known but “Old Time Rock and Roll,” or “The Fire Down Below,” would not be the same songs without Reed’s contributions.  One could tell that Reed enjoyed his time on stage throughout the night, moving from side to side of the stage as he played out to the audience.

But Bob Seger is who the people come to see and he did not disappoint. Overall his vocals were solid, his enthusiasm at its peak.  The show provided a full retrospective of his career starting with six songs found on his 1976 breakout album Live Bullet, the album itself a retrospective of early Bob Seger and which probably captures the spirit of Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band better than any other album. Yet almost every other Bob Seger album was represented right up to his most recent 2006’s Face The Promise. Not surprisingly, not every hit such as “Nine Tonight” or “Like A Rock” could be covered, but that allowed for deeper album cuts such as the fun “Sunspot Baby,” or the funky “Come To Poppa” to be played.

It was fitting that the night closed with “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” a song which could have been penned last week, not thirty five years ago.  We’re all a lot bit older and sweet sixteen has turned to fifty or sixty one.  But the audience still got their kicks from rock and roll. With just the perfect blend of Motown rock and Motown soul, it was an evening that will always be remembered.

Set List:  Roll Me Away | Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You | The Fire Down Below | Mainstreet | Old Time Rock and Roll | Little Drummer Boy | Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man | Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey (Going Back to Birmingham | Travelin’ Man | Beautiful Loser | We’ve Got Tonight | Nutbush City Limits | Come To Poppa | Her Strut | Real Mean Bottle | Turn The Page | Sunspot Baby | Katmandu | Encore 1:  Against The Wind | Hollywood Nights | Encore 2:  Night Moves | Rock and Roll Never Forgets

Written By < Mesa Classic Rock Music Examiner