Bob Seger with Heartless Bastards
Intrust Bank Arena
February 18, 2015
By Jeb Wright
Roll Me Away | Tryin' to Live My Life Without You (Otis Clay cover)| The Fire Down Below | The Devil's Right Hand (Steve Earle cover)| Mainstreet | Old Time Rock & Roll | It’s Your World | Come to Poppa | Her Strut | Like a Rock | Ramblin' Gamblin' Man | Travelin' Man/Beautiful Loser | California Stars (Billy Bragg & Wilco cover) | Hey Gypsy | We've Got Tonight | Turn the Page | Detroit Made (John Hiatt cover)
Against the Wind
Rock and Roll Never Forgets
Bob Seger made a triumphant return to Wichita, Kansas, a city that has been absent from his last several treks across the USA. The appreciative crowd cheered him on through all of his massive hits, as well as five new tunes he trotted out from his latest release, Ride Out. The new songs fit comfortably between tunes that are staples of FM radio… tunes that are also the ‘life soundtrack’ for the major part of those in attendance. Some newbie’s were received better than others, but that’s to be expected at this stage of the game. The good news is that there was not a mass exodus to the beer stand or bathroom during the new songs, and during a couple of them, I actually saw people singing along with Bob. It’s no surprise that his fans knew the songs from Ride Out, as Seger is a great American songwriter, and his material, new or old, unheard of or classic, comes from the heart.
After a nice relaxed set by opening act Heartless Bastards—actually a pretty fun group of talented musicians—Seger and band took the stage to thunderous applause. Immediately noticeable was that fact that Bob has trimmed down from his last tour. Vocally, he was impressive, though he needs a little help from background singers, Shaun Murphy, Laura “Drum Beater” Creamer and Barbara Payton during some strong blasts, but suffice it to say he holds his own no matter what. When he sings in his normal range, think “Like a Rock” and “Against the Wind” style, Seger gives the listener goose bumps. When he rocks out, which he does on “The Fire Down Below,” “Detroit Made” and “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” his voice comes alive.
Seger is 69 years old, seriously pushing 70 (his birthday is May 6th), but he has held it all together very well. His stage presence is energetic and upbeat at times, and reflective and calm when the song calls for it.
Very few men who’ve graced the stages of rock ‘n’ roll have the ability to write and perform songs with pure emotion. Whether it is a soulful, funky rock of “Come to Poppa” or the retrospective-ness of “Like a Rock,” Seger has the ability to reach deep inside of himself and release pure human emotions that everyone has felt at one time or another in their life. One can’t help but relate to the songs that he sings, whether they be happy (“Old Time Rock & Roll”), nostalgic (“Mainstreet”), rebellious (“Turn the Page”) or reflective (“Against the Wind”). This is a talent that one is born with, and while skills can be honed, Bob Seger has a God-given greatness within him.
Two of the new tunes were covers from artists Seger admires. “The Devil’s Right Hand” is a tune composed by Steve Earle that Seger morphs into his classic sound with ease. “Detroit Made” by John Hiatt is a song that makes one wonder how the hell Seger didn’t write the song. It is pure Detroit rock and roll that Seger helped make famous. He takes the song and turns it into a main-set ending rip-roaring good time. The most well-received new song of the evening was “Hey Gypsy,” which Seger explained was a tribute to his friend Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The main set featured many classic tunes. The evening started with “Roll Me Away” and immediately the Midwestern attitude of Seger was met with big Kansas smiles. Michigan may be up and over from Wheat State, but we all ‘get’ one another well.
“The Fire Down Below” and “Her Strut” are cocky numbers that got people on their feet, while “Mainstreet” and “Turn the Page” saw longtime Silver Bullet sax guru Alto Reed take over the stage. The man can wail on that sucker—make that suckers, as some of his saxes are normal sized and some he should really wear a back brace to tout around. Alto is a fun man to watch on stage, and while he never upstages Seger, his personality comes across loud and clear.
Drummer Don Brewer was welcomed back on the drum seat. Moonlighting from his band, Grand Funk Railroad, Brewer defies age as he pumps and pounds the musicians on stage like a locomotive headed down a main line run. And he does it with a huge smile on his face the entire time. Guitarist Rob McNelley nailed solo after solo, while fan favorite Jim “Moose” Brown held his own as well.
A huge part of the Silver Bullet sound comes from background vocalists Shaun Murphy, Laura Creamer and Barbara Payton. Of the bunch, Creamer is a delight to watch as she helps accent Brewer’s drum parts throughout the evening, and it is very apparent she really likes bashing on things! She is part of the visual aspect of the show which only adds to both the musicality and performance.
The horn players (they need a cool name, or if they have one I don’t know what it is… hmm, let’s call them The Detroit Tooters.) The Detroit Tooters added color and flavor to every song where color and flavor were called for. Keith Kaminski, Bob Jenson, Mark Myerly and John Rutherford perform their parts in the shadow of Alto Reed, which is how it should be, as Alto is a star in his own right. They don’t seem to mind though, as they move around, blow their horns and in-between breaths smile at each other in a wide-eyed gaze.
Throw in a couple of guys who have been with band almost as long as Seger himself has, and you have a show. Bass player Chris Campbell began with Bob in 1969, while keyboardist Craig Frost has been hanging around since 1980. The newest member of the band is Deanie Richardson who one can tell is finding her way on fiddle, mandolin and rhythm guitar. She looked a little bit nervous and a whole lot excited to be on stage with such an amazing group of musicians.
The star of the show and the man of the hour is, obviously, Bob Seger. When one can play a set dripping with hits and then return for a pair of encores that knock everyone’s socks off, you know you are witnessing greatness. The first encore began with the song “Against the Wind.” This is such an emotional song that every rebel rocker in the crowd couldn’t help but relate to, and get swept away by the haunting melody and emotive lyrics. Trust me, at some time during the song, one must, no matter how tough a guy one might be, wipe a tear from his eye during this song.
After “Against the Wind,” Seger addressed the crowd by saying, “Kansas let’s go on a trip to Hollywood.” Everyone knew what was next before a note was played! “Hollywood Nights” had everyone on their feet and singing along with Seger. The night was not over once the famous song ended, however, as Bobby and the Bullet Band came out for second encore consisting of “Night Moves” and “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” The evening ended as it began, with the crowd all on their feet, cheering loudly.
The only negative aspect of the evening’s performance was Seger proving white men not only have a hard time jumping, they can’t dance. He tries though, you have to give him that much. He seems to have had fun bouncing about the stage, raising his arms over his head and shaking everything he’s got! What he lacks in dance moves he makes up with sheer emotion. Smiles were seen on Bob’s face the entire evening as he was motivated by the energy the Kansas crowd threw his way.
Young bands that think one has to rely on light shows, special effects, dance steps, or pre-recorded track-crapola should be forced to attend a show by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band. They would walk away learning that real music comes from well-written, and flawlessly executed songs. Bob Seger and everyone on stage this night are a living testament to the true importance of music to mankind.
This was not so much of a rock show as a peek into the heart, mind and soul of Bob Seger. One walked away feeling they had witnessed something special and, indeed they had.
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band are on-fire as they crisscross the country in 2015.
The bottom line here is simple: If this band comes anywhere near you, go!
The Sliver Bullet Band is:
Vocals, Guitar, and Piano: Bob Seger
Bass: Chris Campbell
Sax: Alto Reed
Keyboards: Craig Frost
Drums: Don Brewer
Lead Guitar, Keyboards: Jim “Moose” Brown
Lead Guitar: Rob McNelley
Backup Singers: Shaun Murphy, Laura Creamer, Barbara Payton
Saxophone: Keith Kaminski
Trumpet: Bob Jenson
Trumpet: Mark Myerly
Trombone: John Rutherford
Fiddle, Mandolin: Deanie Richardson