Bob Seger Has Great “Night Moves”; J. Geils Band Throws a “House Party”

Michigan native and heartland rocker extraordinaire—Bob Seger—brought his Silver Bullet Band to Consol Energy Center Thursday night on the Ride Out Tour. The slightly older, flannel and Harley shirt-clad crowd—dotted with a few youngsters and rock ‘n roll chicks in boots—waited in anticipation through the J. Geils warm-up for Seger to perform.

The J. Geils band is about as good a warm up act as one could ask for, getting the crowd pumped and rocking early with their funky blues rock jams. Following their performance, the lights came up and people milled about. Thirty-five minutes later, the Consol was dark again, and under the shine of bluish purple spots, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band took the stage. The near sell-out crowd—which applauded and yelled loudly and generously throughout the night—roared their approval especially when spotting Seger. Dressed simply in blue jeans, black shirt, and a black head band, Seger led the band in the first number of the night—”Roll Me Away.”

The Silver Bullet Band, Stage, and Opener

The Silver Bullet Band is a large band, putting up a big wall of sound similar to Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. With The Silver Bullet Band, though, some members come on and off the stage, depending on the song. Three longtime members are Alto Reed (saxophones), Craig Frost (keyboards), and Chris Campbell (bass). Others include three background singers, a four-person horn section (not counting Reed), a lead guitarist, fiddler, drummer, and piano player, plus a few additional contributors. Seger proudly said during the concert that most are from Michigan, and they’re all very talented musicians.

The stage was without much adornment. The lighting was mostly different colored spotlights with some special effects. The twisted metal lighting array above the stage somewhat resembled the Jesus fish symbol. The drum kit sat on a riser at center stage near the back and was flanked (stage left) by a grand piano, keyboardist Frost, and horn section and (stage right) by additional percussion stations and background singers. Near the front were Seger, Reed, Campbell, and the lead guitarist.

For the opening “Roll Me Away,” Reed accompanied Seger and the band with a large silver contrabass saxophone, one of the biggest, while a woman played kettle drums. When the song ended, Seger shouted, “Alright, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” and the crowd applauded lovingly. Seger went right into “Trying to Live My Life Without You,” with some great horn parts and the first appearance of the female background singers. Next up was “The Fire Down Below” from the Night Moves album, with the crowd singing “They Got the Fire Down Below” part of the chorus with the encouragement of Seger, who seemed delighted by the interaction. It was an easy feat for the audience because Seger’s lyrics are burned into our brains from years of heavy FM-radio airplay. The song had a nice lead guitar ending. (Many of the supplemental musicians are not credited on Seger’s web site, but whoever’s playing lead guitar sure can play.) Seger graciously introduced band members throughout the show.

New Material and More Classic Rock Hits

Seger sounded a strong environmental warning with “It’s Your World” from his latest album, Ride Out. The song is a catchy rocker with powerful lyrics about chemicals in our rivers and dying coral reefs. One strong lyric was  “Say a prayer for the victims of extinction, say another for the redwood trees”; the chorus line “It’s Your World” was repeated several times throughout the song. For the song, Seger played a white-trimmed black Telecaster guitar, nice song accents were timbales drums and spotlights which bathed the whole stage in green light. Other songs performed from Ride Out  were “California Stars,” which Seger credited Woody Guthrie with writing; “Hey Gypsy,” a tribute song to Stevie Ray Vaughn; “Detroit Made”; “All of the Roads”; and the title cut. Nice to hear quality new songs from a classic rock artist.

The song “Mainstreet” opened with Reed playing its signature intoxicating notes on a small straight-type soprano saxophone. It continued with very nice piano and lead guitar. Seger’s husky, melodic voice seemed in good shape as he sang colorful storytelling lyrics of losers, hustlers, pool halls, and a dancing girl—all from a street in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich. From that he went into “Old Time Rock & Roll,” which many remember from the famous scene in the Tom Cruise movie Risky Business. The crowd loved it and joined with a clap-along.

Seger called out to the audience that the next song was “to all the girls and to the guys they drive crazy,” then broke into “Her Strut.” Two lead guitarist played off one another while the drummer banged out some heavy beats. Seger began “Like a Rock” sitting center stage playing an acoustic guitar. The song gained tempo and featured great lead guitar finger slide riffs from Seger’s guitar ace; beautiful background singing was threaded throughout. A major highlight of the show was the combo “Traveling Man” and “Beautiful Loser.” “Travelin’ Man” had great lead guitar runs and drum highlights with a short and sweet drum feature. Multiple spotlights shown in sequence on the drummer with almost every strike. The song moved seamlessly to “Beautiful Loser,” with continued jamming and a real nice honky-tonk piano near the end. “This is my mom’s favorite song,” Seger shared with the audience before launching into a lovely rendition of “We’ve Got Tonight” while playing piano. Other songs in the first set were “Come to Poppa” and “Turn the Page.”

Encore! Encore!

Called back to the stage by thunderous applause, the band began their encore with Seger playing acoustic guitar for the hit “Against the Wind.” His voice combined nicely with the background singers and some beautiful piano parts. “Hollywood Nights” continued Seger’s rich storytelling narrative with the band firing on all cylinders and some prominent bass notes from Campbell. Taking a bow, the band left the stage.

More applause and yelling brought Seger and the band back, and the strumming of just a few acoustic guitar chords let everyone know they were about to hear the song that put Seger on the map—”Night Moves.” The band joined in, and the concert reached a crescendo as many in the audience stood, sang, and danced. The song featured Seger’s great lyrics, including the fantastic line “Working on mysteries without any clues, working on the night moves.” Organ, piano, and bass shone through, along with a second acoustic guitar player performing off to the side. Seger changed the lyrics from “sweet summertime” to “Pennsylvania summertime,” which surprised and delighted the audience. “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” the final song of the second encore, closed out a fun night for Seger and his fans.

Great Opener

The J. Geils Band (J. Geils had previously and amicably left the band), led by longtime lead singer Peter Wolf and famed harmonica player Magic Dick along with keyboardist Seth Justman, bass guitarist Danny Klein and touring members. The band got down to business quickly and right on time.

Famous for their 70’s funky blues rock origins and several early ’80’s new-rock hits, the band started with a bang, running through “Sno-Cone,” “Hard Drivin’ Man,” and “Pack Fair and Square.” Next was “Give It to Me,” with a nice blending of guitars, drums, harmonica, and keyboards in a long jam.

Wolf, dressed in a black fedora-style hat, black jacket with black sequins, and a dress shirt opened half way, launched into their big hit “Centerfold” about a Home-Room Angel that turns into a men’s magazine centerfold. It was followed by “Detroit Breakdown” with another great harmonica jam from Magic Dick. Wolf said the next song was about love troubles and dived into the intro about “Raputa the Buta” and “Wooba Gooba” that precedes “Must of Got Lost” on the live album Blow Your Face Out. The band was in high jam mode, and the crowd loved it.

For “Love Stinks,” Wolf had a bouquet of red roses, several of which he handed to a fan brought on stage prior to the song. He also gave a few to the crowd and the scantily black-clad background singers. Magic Dick sported a zipped black leather motorcycle jacket. The song featured heavy metal lead guitar, synth/keyboards, crashing beats, and Wolf shining on the vocals. “Looking for a Love” and “Whammer Jammer” followed. Magic Dick gave a strong solo harmonica performance that’s featured at the beginning of “Whammer Jammer.”

Their single set climaxed with “Ain’t Nothin’ but a House Party” from their red-colored vinyl album Bloodshot. And it was like a house party with over 18,000 people. The band jammed while Wolf played a cowbell, Magic Dick wailed on the harmonica, and spotlights shone across the crowd. Can’t wait for their next house party!

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central and a lover of great music and entertainment.