He opened with “Roll Me Away” and closed with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets,” and that’s probably true, even if these days it needs a night off between gigs and a 10-minute intermission to break up the set. This might well be Bob Seger’s final tour; he’ll turn 62 in May, but his new comeback album
Face The Promise is surprisingly muscular, and I wanted to hear how such hard-rocking new songs would mix with the more soul/r&b-styled (though still punchy) classics. They harmonize quite well, as it turns out. Six Promise tracks made it into a 24-song set. At one point the Silver Bullet crew played three new ones in a row, which could have been a gamble given Seger’s aging, hit-anticipating audience. But we were with him all the way.
The band was full of Seger-tour veterans and rock-history luminaries in general. Bassist Chris Campbell has been playing with Bob since 1969, and saxophonist Alto Reed’s been around since 1972, which makes me think he’s spending a lot of his per diem just to keep his long ponytail a lustrous black. Backing vocalist Shaun Murphy fronts the current incarnation of Little Feat, and Don Brewer—a Grand Funk Railroad mainstay and Seger sideman since 1983—was behind the drums, thumping away as hard as he did 35 years ago. At the Garden, all their moves—guitar players lean on each other mid-stage! Lead guitarist (or, on “Turn The Page,” saxophonist) step onto the spotlit platform for a solo! Everybody line up and rock out together!—were long-established arena-rock tropes, but they’re still effective. Watching this band work is like watching Ricky Jay do card tricks that have been around for 400 years, but can still captivate a willing audience every single night.
The set was impeccably constructed, from the aforementioned opener (with added boom from two floor toms pummeled by one of the backup singers) to the encore of “Night Moves,” “Hollywood Nights,” “Against The Wind,” and of course, “Forgets.” I was halfway hoping he’d play Promise’s anti-Bush assault “No More,” but Seger would never risk making even a single person in the arena unhappy, and good for him. He’s a showbiz pro in the best possible sense—he’s written a bunch of great songs, and he can still play them with as much force and conviction as ever.