Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: Seger shows no signs of slowing

Bob Seger, who turns 68 in May, has hinted in recent interviews that he’s nearing retirement. Watching him march across the stage at Time Warner Cable Arena Thursday singing cuts like “Beautiful Loser,” “Travelin’ Man,” and “The Fire Down Below” with a gleeful grin, it’s hard to imagine him giving it up any time soon.

Seger proved he’s still in fine voice and he’s still passionate about his songs - some of which were written over 40 years ago. That excitement extends to the new music he’s making. He has a new album tentatively scheduled for August. He played new songs, including his version of “California Stars” - one of the Woody Guthrie songs from Billy Bragg and Wilco “Mermaid Avenue” project. The announcement of another new track, which I think is called “All the Roads,” signaled a beer run for a good portion of the crowd, but the original tune was vintage Seger.

Seger’s music has always championed the working man so it was fitting that independent, local working class band Temperance League fit the opening slot. What's more working class than having to be at work in the morning after playing the arena?

Local bands often debate oversaturating the hometown market by playing too often, but Temperance League hops on stage at local bars and venues at least a few times a month. That experience served the collective of local music veterans, who play `60s and `70s rooted rock, well. 

The group benefited from the high end production. You could hear Shawn Lynch’s backing vocals, for instance. Singer Bruce Hazel animatedly worked the stage, stopping wide-eyed to check out the band on the big screen, the same way he does at Plaza-Midwood’s tiny Snug Harbor. Seger’s keyboardist Craig Frost, who watched some of the set stage side, even commented on Hazel’s mid-song shimmy after the show.

Seger and his top-notch 13-piece Silver Bullet Band took the stage with “Detroit Made.” The group knocked out hits like “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” and “Mainstreet” early in the set (although the giant band sometimes drowned out Seger’s vocals on the former). Of course Seger kept plenty of hits for later, but he didn’t even play them all. He dug into deeper cuts like “Her Strut,” chosen because Bill Szymczyk, who produced the track for 1980’s “Against the Wind,” was in the audience as were members of Seger’s family. Those deeper cuts revealed the Silver Bullet Band’s darker, groovier side.

Of course classics like “Turn the Page” featured Alto Reed’s signature sax work and had the entire crowd on its feet. Seger’s vocals soared on slow numbers like “We’ve Got Tonight” and “Against the Wind.” The latter, along with “Hollywood Nights,” was the first of two separate encores.

Although the first exit was a long one - he shared that a band member had to run to the bathroom (love the candor) - there was little doubt the band would fail to return to play the song that gives the tour its name. “Rock n’ Roll Never Forgets” closed the show following “Night Moves” with Seger looking as delighted as he was when he started the set two hours before.

He may be addressing impending retirement in interviews, but from the audience’s standpoint there seems to be no need for that discussion just yet. 

(Photo by Jeff Siner, The Charlotte Observer)