Seger still plays with a youthful exuberance
Bob Seger's is a no-frills, meat-and-potatoes version of rock 'n' roll salvation, and his return to the concert stage following a decade-long hiatus followed suit. At the TD Banknorth Garden on Saturday, a blaring snippet of "The Boys Are Back in Town" served as fanfare. Seger walked out and waved. He wore blue jeans and a black T-shirt, and with the sturdy support of a reconstituted Silver Bullet Band -- several longtime members now sport flowing locks the color of their namesake ammo -- played heartland rockers and back-to-basics ballads for more than two hours.
It was as simple, and satisfying, as that. At 61, Seger seems more than ever like the blue-collar Bruce Springsteen, a less-complicated American dreamer who inspires fist-pumping around a nostalgic theme of youthful escape. "Katmandu," "Night Moves," "Roll Me Away," and "Hollywood Nights" were rendered, and received, exuberantly. So was Seger's like-sounding, but not like-minded, new music, which largely celebrates the comforts of home and hearth. (Springsteen's grown more thoughtful and political with the years; Seger has not.) But Seger has a secret weapon, something his more influential contemporary never mastered: great ballads.
"We've Got Tonight" turns an unfancy fistful of chords and a few clear-eyed refrains into one of rock's most poignant come-ons, and Seger sang it at the piano with seasoned conviction. He stayed at the keyboard for a beautifully torpid read of "Turn the Page," which captured the strangeness and weariness of life on the road so well you wouldn't guess the singer is just coming off a 10-year break.
The four-piece Motor City Horns and a stellar trio of female singers supplied the subtle strain of hometown soul that colors older songs like "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" and "Betty Lou's Getting Out Tonight" as well as the riff-heavy title track of the Detroit native's new album, "Face the Promise."
Seger's always had a foot in the past; he covered "Old Time Rock and Roll" as a young man, and wrote "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" -- the charging rallying cry that closed down the show -- as an even younger one. Now it turns out those songs, and their invitation to rock out forever, have become that much more compelling for an aging musician and his devoted fans.