Final rock tours – and that decisiveness – are received by fans with a dose of disbelief. So many musicians have stated that intent and then hit adoration highway again. But Bob Seger, out on tour with The Silver Bullet Band, is on an ultimate tour. And he seems to mean it.
Seger came onstage beaming and, as in past shows, he dances and moves about when not seated at piano or playing guitar. The announcement that this is his final string of gigs may have inspired greater stories and tributes, but his energy is high. He is, after all, a consummate showman.
Seger swiftly sold out KeyCenter for his concert on Jan. 17 with three generations of fans filling the seats and ready to sing and party. With magnificent Grand Funk Railroad, also celebrating a half-century in the business, opening, it was a night of rollicking beats, poignant balladry, and reminiscence.
Vintage images of Seger (that head of hair getting shorter, whiter) onstage, backstage, and stopped alongside a country road astride his chopper, filled screens over the stage throughout the two-hour set. Between songs he shared stories of his prolific, 50-year career. A touching verbal and pictorial tribute to departed colleagues, during Bob Dylan's "Forever Young," brought on cheers, and some tears.
"Long Twin Silver Line," from Seger's release "Against the Wind," a song about a she-train, was the set opener. Seger, in signature black T-shirt and jeans (the black headband would appear a bit later), was moving about the stage and punching the air for emphasis as he does. "OK, Buffalo, let's go down below!" he shouted before "The Fire Down Below." That led into "Mainstreet" with him seated and playing guitar. "This is a song about where I grew up, in Ann Arbor, a blues club on Ann Street, so I changed it to Main Street."
"We're gonna dedicate this one to everyone in the building," Seger said before "Old Time Rock & Roll," dancing about, pointing to audience members, and the band, with jubilance. To introduce "In Your Time," he told the audience he wrote the song for his son when he was 2. Seger's voice, still gravelly, wavers from time to time, but a lone Seger growl still gets an ovation.
Sweet and swingy "Shame on the Moon," a cover by country composer Rodney Crowell, was introduced. "We've played a lot of songs and here's one you maybe haven't heard, it's been 28 years since we've played it here." Another cover, naughty "Come to Poppa," preceded "Her Strut," Seger's "Most played song from 1981."
"This was my mother's favorite song I ever wrote, she died in 1989, we've done it ever since," he said before "We've Got Tonight," seated at the piano. "Travelin' Man" then brought the mood back to rowdiness.
Seger and his 14 extraordinary bandmates (each introduced with the year they joined him) hit all the favorites. The closing song "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" ended with a deep band bow as the musicians linked arms and the audience thundered. Two encores culminated with "Rock and Roll Never Forgets." The harsh house lights came up, and it was really time to go.
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band with Grand Funk Railroad
Jan. 17 at KeyBank Center