REVIEW: A Muscle Car of Rock Still Purrs & Roars

“But the show’s spirit was personal, not political. Grizzled yet smiling and robust, with his stalwart voice and vigorous band, Mr. Seger and his songs promised that it’s possible to look back, with and without regrets, yet still live fully in the present.”
-Jon Pareles, New York Times

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band Roar Into the Garden

Jon Pareles

December 21, 2014

Bob Seger didn’t show any rock-star vanity when he headlined Madison Square Garden on Friday night. Mr. Seger is 69; his hair and beard were gray and he wore glasses, an untucked black shirt and bluejeans. Soon after he started his set, he put on a sweatband that he would, about two hours later, fling into the crowd. There was no dress code in his Silver Bullet Band, either; they weren’t onstage to pose. The show was in the songs that were played as straightforwardly as they deserved.

Mr. Seger has cultivated whatever the opposite of mystique is. Through the years, he has set out to be a regular-guy rocker singing from the heart. His voice on Friday was as strong as ever, a soul baritone with a rasp telegraphing enthusiasm and ache. The Silver Bullet Band — including Chris Campbell on bass, who joined Mr. Seger in 1969; and Alto Reed on saxophones, who joined him in 1972 — was muscular and steadfast. Mr. Seger’s music is still the ringing heartland rock he helped establish in the 1970s: rooted in 1960s soul and folk-rock, paced to sink in.

Even now, Mr. Seger’s oldies have stayed age appropriate. By the time he reached a national audience in the mid-1970s, after years of being a hometown star around Detroit, he was already a grown-up reckoning with the passage of time. Songs from the 1970s and ’80s like “Night Moves,” “Mainstreet,” “Beautiful Loser” and “Like a Rock” — all in Friday’s set — were already nostalgic, musing over teenage memories and the compromises of maturity. “Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then,” he sang in “Against the Wind,” from 1980. Mr. Seger’s 2014 album, “Ride Out” (Capitol), is his first new studio release since 2006. It places songs that hold a lifetime of retrospection, like “All of the Roads,” alongside unabashedly liberal sentiments. Mr. Seger urged fans to listen to the song’s “good message” when he introduced “The Devil’s Right Hand,” a Steve Earle song about gun violence. In a new song of his own, “The Fireman’s Talkin’ ” — which turned toward Appalachia with banjo and fiddle — he warned about global warming.

But the show’s spirit was personal, not political. Grizzled yet smiling and robust, with his stalwart voice and vigorous band, Mr. Seger and his songs promised that it’s possible to look back, with and without regrets, yet still live fully in the present.

Article Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/22/arts/music/bob-seger-and-the-silver-bullet-band-roar-into-the-garden.html?_r=0

*A version of this review appears in print on December 22, 2014, on page C5 of the New York edition with the headline: A Muscle Car of Rock Still Purrs and Roars.