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Concert Reviews:
Bob Seger opens new tour with some home town love

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2011

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YPSILANTI -- Declaring that "it's always the best, being home," Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band launched their second tour of the year on Wednesday night (Nov. 2) as close to Seger's home as they've played in quite some time.

Seger, of course, was raised in nearby Ann Arbor, but the show at Eastern Michigan University's Convocation Center was the closest he's come, in performance, since a December 1978 concert at U-M's Crisler Arena. So the homecoming vibe that always accompanies a Seger appearance in Michigan was even a bit more charged on Wednesday, and further amplified by the relatively small size of the venue that brought the crowd of about 6,500 right in the face of the home town hero, without even a security pit at the front of the stage to build some distance.

Seger and company responded to that energy, which also helped get them through any first-night gaffes; on Wednesday, save for saxophonist Alto Reed taking a tumble during "Tryin' To Live My Life Without You," those were mostly on the technical end as the group broke in a new P.A. system (and sound man) and battled through some significant feedback and missed cues. The band itself, however, was in sharper, tighter form than the usual opening night, still clearly in form from the 27 dates it played during the spring.

A few new twists also helped to freshen the night. "Feel Like a Number," a universal message that plays particularly well these days (hopefully Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who attended the show, was listening to the lyrics), was installed as the new opening tune, with its predecessor "Roll Me Away" sounding even more powerful near the end of the main set. Seger also debuted the version of "Little Drummer Boy" that he recorded for the "A Very Special Christmas" Special Olympics benefit album, as well as the cover of Little Richards "Hey Hey Hey Hey (Going Back to Birmingham)" that's the first single from the upcoming "Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets" compilation.

Seger introduced the latter as "the fastest song we've ever played," but the Silver Bullet crew gave it a nimble runthrough that showed it was up to the task.

Most of the concert, meanwhile, followed the pattern of the earlier leg of the tour -- and nobody in the Convocation Center was complaining about that. After all, no true Seger fan in Michigan tires of rocking to "Her Strut," "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," "Fire Down Below," "Old Time Rock and Roll" and "Katmandu," for slower pieces such as "Mainstreet," "We've Got Tonight" and "Turn the Page." The "Travelin' Man"/"Beautiful Loser" medley remains a seminal musical moment -- and was one of many songs on Wednesday that highlighted livewire new lead guitarist Kenny Greenberg -- and the encores of "Against the Wind," "Hollywood Nights," "Night Moves" and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" provided the same winning formula they did during the spring.

Some fans may have missed staples such as "Horizontal Bop" and "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight," but the 23-song show, weighing in at two hours and 10 minutes, felt somewhat streamlined and faster-paced, to good effect.

It was Seger and the Silver Bullets' seventh Michigan show of the year (plus two in Toledo), with no more slated for this leg of the tour. He did wish everyone a "Merry Christmas, early," and the Ypsilanti crowd certainly left feeling like it had unwrapped a present to tide it over until the next time.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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