Bob Seger may be retiring from the road this year, but he’s apparently not planning to stop playing.
“In 2020 I’ll be available for weddings,” he told the crowd Thursday (Jan. 3) night at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Mich. “Keep me in mind.”
The quip has been the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s parting line since his Final Tour began in November, and certainly one that more than a few of his fans would probably like to take him up on. In Saginaw, however, Seger and his Silver Bullet Band said goodbye with a high-octane two-hour show whose 22 songs featured plenty of, well, old time rock n’ roll, as well as a few surprises.
Chief among those was the first-ever performance of “No Man’s Land,” a mid-tempo track from his Grammy Award-winning 1980 album Against the Wind. He followed that with his hit version of Rodney Crowell’s “Shame on the Moon” from 1982’s The Distance, returned to the setlist for the first time in 27 years.
“Since I’m retiring soon I figured we better roll out some of the ones we’ve never played,” said Seger who’s also been opening some shows with his chart-topping Beverly Hills Cop II hit “Shakedown.” “I’m pulling ’em out. Now’s the time.”
Sounding robust and joyous, Seger — who had to halt his 2017-18 Runaway Train Tour to undergo spinal surgery — was quietly nostalgic and sentimental throughout Thursday’s show, which resumed the farewell tour after a 12-day holiday break. He accompanied some of the songs with video screen montages of vintage images and lingered a bit longer on stories about “Like a Rock,” “Her Strut” and “Turn the Page.” He dedicated “We’ve Got Tonight” to his late mother, explaining that it’s her “favorite song I ever wrote,” while a cover Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” was a homage to the late Eagles’ founder Glenn Frey, a close friend, and “some other people that we lost along the way,” with photos of Tom Petty, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Prince, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Gregg Allman and Chuck Berry scrolling on the screen during the performance.
Seger and company — up to 14 Silver Bullets at any given time, including three backing vocalists and the four-piece Motor City Horns section — kept things rocking most of the night, however, from the opening “Long Twin Silver Line” through favorites such as “The Fire Down Below,” “Old Time Rock & Roll,” Willie Mitchell’s “Come To Poppa,” “Her Strut” and “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” Those went down particularly well in the Dow Center, a tight, low-ceilinged and loud old school arena that had the comfortable feel of the black t-shirt and jeans Seger sported on stage.
Nashville -based lead guitarist Rob McNelley, meanwhile, delivered one killer solo after another, including the soaring slide break on “Like a Rock” and the electrifying bridge section between “Travelin’ Man” and “Beautiful Loser,” the latter of which Seger sang closer to its 1975 recorded version than to the following year’s Live Bullet. Saxophonist Alto Reed also lit things up on a few of the songs, particularly his showpiece “Turn the Page.”
And the familiar encore set — “Against the Wind,” “Hollywood Nights,” “Night Moves” and “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” — offered the best farewell of all, indelible classics that spoke to a legacy that will linger well past Seger’s final show.
When that will be is unclear, however. The Final Tour is currently booked through May 2, but there’s talk of more dates into the summer — after which, as the man said, we can keep an eye out for him playing “Old Time Rock & Roll” at weddings far and wide.
Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s full Saginaw setlist featured:
Long Twin Silver Line
Still the Same
The Fire Down Below
Old Time Rock & Roll
No Man’s Land
Shame on the Moon
Roll Me Away
Come to Poppa
Like a Rock
You’ll Accomp’ny Me
We’ve Got Tonight
Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser
Turn the Page
Forever Young (Bob Dylan cover)
Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man
Against the Wind
Rock and Roll Never Forgets