Nobody could complain about seeing the same old Bob Seger show after the Detroit rocker and his Silver Bullet Band opened their latest tour on Wednesday night (Nov. 19) at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Mich.
Before a packed house of partisan home state fans — who braved a bitter chill and the season’s first significant snowfall to be there — Seger and company spiced the 23-song, two-hour and 10-minute show with a generous selection from Ride Out, his first album of all-new material in eight years. With an expanded Silver Bullet Band that swelled to 15 members at full power and showed off Nashville veteran Deanie Richardson on fiddle, Seger tapped Ride Out for six songs, including rootsy fare such as “The Fireman’s Talkin’ ” and his renditions of Steve Earle’s “The Devil’s Right Hand” and the Wilco/Billy Bragg/Woody Guthrie synthesized “California Stars,” as well as the pensive and dramatic “Gates of Eden.”
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Seger told the Saginaw crowd that he wrote the bluesy “Hey Gypsy” for the late Stevie Ray Vaughan not long before his death, while he introduced John Hiatt’s “Detroit Made” with an apology for the lyrics, noting that the Buick 225 that the song is about was actually made in nearby Flint and not the titular Detroit, though he added that “you know what we mean.”
Subsequent stops not get quite as many of the new songs, however. Prior to the tour, Seger told Billboard that he would “probably be a little braver in Saginaw than I will be the next four or so. Then we actually get a crowd reaction to them, so that’ll tell us something. The winners from the album, the ones that translate well live, are going to emerge.”
Despite a few technical issues, particularly feedback during a few songs, the show was still robust, with Seger in fine voice and the band sounding tight after extensive rehearsals dating back to September, when it was preparing for TV appearances around Ride Out‘s mid-October launch. Longtime saxophonist Alto Reed remained the star of favorites such as “Mainstreet” and “Turn the Page,” while lead guitarist Rob McNelley nailed the epic slide guitar solo during “Like a Rock” and Grand Funk Railroad’s Don Brewer propelled the segue between “Travelin’ Man” and “Beautiful Loser.”
And while the new songs meant that certain live staples such as “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” and “Sunspot Baby” were relegated to the sidelines, the show didn’t want for hits as Seger led the group through the likes of “Roll Me Away,” Otis Clay’s “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You,” “The Fire Down Below,” “Her Strut,” “Katmandu” and encore quartet of “Against The Wind,” “Hollywood Nights,” “Night Moves” and “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” — during which he was visibly weary but still singing well.
Sporting his usual black T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, Seger was also in a chatty mood during the show, explaining the inspiration for the new songs and even sharing a story before “We’ve Got Tonight” about his late mother once calling from a Hawaiian vacation, excited to have heard the song “with a full symphony orchestra…on the elevator.”
The Ride Out tour continues Saturday in Bangor, Maine — the first of 16 shows the J. Geils Band will open — and has dates booked into late February, with more to be announced. Seger says he may even play some summer dates for the first time since the mid-80s; “I don’t mind summer,” he says. “I really don’t. (Manager Punch Andrews) is talking about some summer dates, and he never brings up summer dates, ever. He’s saying, ‘I’d like you to take maybe three months off and do maybe 10 in the summer,’ and I’ve never heard him say that before. But there are certain venues that have been screaming for us to (play), like the Hollywood Bowl, and we can’t do the Hollywood Bowl ’cause it closes November 1st and doesn’t re-open ’til the end of May, so that’s one we’ve always wanted to do.”
Seger recently taped an episode of CMT’s Crossroads with Jason Aldean that premiers on November 28.
Seger’s full opening night setlist included:
“Roll Me Away”
“Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You”
“The Fire Down Below”
“The Devil’s Right Hand”
“Old Time Rock & Roll”
“The Fireman’s Talkin'”
“Come to Poppa”
“Like a Rock”
“Gates of Eden”
“We’ve Got Tonight”
“Turn the Page”
“Against the Wind”
“Rock and Roll Never Forgets”