BROOKLYN, NY—It was a night of raucous rockers and plaintive ballads at the Barclays Center, where Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band took us back to the ‘70s with a full-tilt boogie blowout from another era. Celebrating the beautiful loser in us all, Seger fired it up for a two-hour-plus performance of the hits and some new ones from his forthcoming album due sometime in August.
Seger and his band went beyond a greatest hits redux as they pulled out all the stops in a tour de force knockout as he stood his ground on rock and roll turf that goes back to the ‘60s. The Bob Seger System that bolted out of the gritty trenches of Michigan also gave us the radical stampeding of the MC5 and the decadent sleaze of Iggy And The Stooges.
Sporting a full-blown tuff of silver hair and goatee, Seger cranked out the tunes in a gruff vocal that hasn’t lost an ounce of thunder. He was downright giddy as he mentioned more than once the joy of celebrating his daughter’s 18th birthday here, where she now resides, as well as walking over the Brooklyn Bridge earlier in the day. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, he howled and commanded the stage as the Silver Bullets—including vets Alto Reed on sax, bassist Chris Campbell, who has been with the unit since 1968, and Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer—cranked out the punchy rhythms that were punctuated by Seger’s acoustic guitar.
Singer-songwriter stuff with a full-blown locomotive of a backup band like Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, The Silver Bullets took on the arena and turned it into a smoky dive bar. Seger meandered from the guitar to piano but spent most the of the night standing tall center stage with fists pumping to the rafters, as he held onto the mic rocking back and forth and howled to the cheap seats as the band cranked out its soundtrack to the ‘70s that didn’t stray too far from their recorded cousins.
Opening with a John Hiatt cover, “Detroit Made,” they played it like a soul review straight out of Motown. By the time “The Fire Down Below” hit, things got nice and ugly. “Main Street” incorporated the acoustified soul that lies at the heart of the best of Seger’s work. He strummed lightly as the band countered, pulling the song’s dynamics from a quiet whisper to a bittersweet roar. “Old Time Rock And Roll,” “Her Strut” and “Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight” were foot stomping beer chasers that had the crowd on its toes doing the Bensonhurst boogie.
“Like A Rock,” delivered midway through the set, was a slam-dunk of anthem rock after which the band piled on its four-piece horn section and let it roll for the rest of the night. “Travelin’ Man,” “Beautiful Loser” and “Turn The Page” from the Live Bullet album of 1976 went down like hymnals to heartland rock. He then played “We Got Tonight,” resurrecting its place from the hall of cheese and into a bluesy, plaintive yearning for that second shot at the babe. “Katmandu” was the set closer. “Night Moves” and the grand finale, “Rock And Roll Never Forgets,” said it all, ending the night. Thank you, Bob.
Joe Walsh was the opening act who loosened the crowd up for Seger’s big revue with a rollicking mix of boozy riffs and a cosmic wit that was infectious. On “Rocky Mountain Way,” the big riffs bounded then boomed across the arena as they gave way to Walsh’s vocoder and his switching off the two guitars dangling around his neck. He introduced “Life’s Been Good” as “the most beautiful love song ever written,” as the bass drum and yet another signature Walsh lick kicked off the 10-minute bad boy opus to rock excess. The Eagles’ “Life In The Fast Lane” was his closer that Walsh’s fingers ripped through, ending his all too brief set.