Bob Seger: Classic Rock From Classy Guy (with great band)
I saw Bob Seger and his band live tonight at Madison Square Garden, with my Dad. It was a phenomenal show. Excellent, classic rock performance, talented band, songs I recognized enough to sing along to, and a fun night out with my Dad. It is late, and I’m tired and happy, but I wanted to write everything down to remember.
I went to the Bob Seger show having no clear idea what I expected Bob Seger to look like. He sounds like he ought to look like Joe Cocker. But: he has a fluffy white mane of hair, and was wearing jeans and an ordinary black t-shirt, like a cool uncle, or that high school English teacher who made everyone love him by sitting on the edge of his desk and telling stories about Woodstock during the discussion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
And, my God, what a band! There was a horn section, doing neat sort of doo-wop-shuffle-step choreography as they played; a mountainous drum kit; a piano player and a separate keyboard player; three killer backup singing babes (one of whom also played percussion: not just the shaking-maracas-and-tambourine percussion: serious whomping mallets on drums with enviable muscled arms percussion.) A guitar player who got to stand out on some entirely excellent solos (tough to do in a muscular sort of band like this.) Looking too cool to exist in a black ponytail and shades, there was a sax player who danced and twisted and rocked, sometimes playing a sax that looked to be taller than I am. The sax player also played: kettle drums, guitar, and bunches of three maracas in each hand at various points. All the while looking like the essence of rock and roll cool.
While Dad had heard that Seger saved fan-and-radio classics like “Turn The Page” for the encore, I don’t think there was a single song that the crowd wasn’t singing along to, punctuated by overheard exultations of “this is my favorite.” Here’s where I’m bad at the title recall. I heard plenty of songs I recognized and could sing along to delightedly, but I have no idea what most of them are called. Beyond the fact that the faster songs had a wonderful, muscular drive to them. And even the ballady slow songs have the heft of a great, forceful band.
Note to self: find Seger’s version of “Little Drummer Boy…”
Speaking of Christmas… “You’ve all been good girls and boys, and they’ve lit the tree in Rockefeller Center,” said Bob Seger. “So I have a little Christmas present for you.”
And onto the stage walked: BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. The Garden went nuts. I almost died of delighted shock. (Recovered enough to Twitter frantically in ALL CAPS because… BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN.) The Garden seethed with delight, intoning “Bruuuuuuuce, Bruuuuuuce”
Here is video of it!
They played “Old Time Rock and Roll,” and I wish Springsteen had played longer- because seeing them riff off each other and have fun, not to mention the sound. So good! Both Seger and Springsteen have become gigantically famous for songs that make sense in small familiar bars. No posing or strutting (Yes, Mick Jagger, I am, in fact, looking at you.) Just getting it done, wearing jeans, wearing smiles, having fun and keeping the beat.
Note to self: get copy of “Live Bullet” and other Seger albums. Because every song was fun. Hard to sit still- we had excellent seats, and plenty of people in the packed arena were boogieing or dancing in their chairs. But this kind of insistent, driving, chords: it would make good music for a long, steady jog. Or driving. Just to be going somewhere. And there isn’t a bad song in the bunch. Great lyrics- though hard to pay attention to when watching a talented band and a delighted, dynamic Seger. I bet some iffy songs are buried on albums somewhere through Seger’s decades-long career…. even a workmanlike, sturdy band like that must have some experimental stinkers that never saw the light of radio or concert.
I could tell Bob Seger was having as much fun as his fans, introducing favorite songs, and making sure to play to each corner of the stage, getting the audience involved. Pumping his arms, and dancing along, pointing the microphone for everyone to shout along with the chorus. And then flashing a thumbs up. Less a strutting rock star than an ordinary guy who happens to have great fun with a close-knit group of really, really talented performers.
On the way into the show, Dad told me that Seger makes it a point to make sure his whole band gets treated well and paid well: making sure each member of the band gets a fair and generous portion of the tour profits. Running the band as a good, hardworking business, it sounds like. When he introduces band members who’ve been touring with him since ’68 or ’71, that’s definitely the mark of a good band leader who’s doing right by his musicians.