“Usually it’s dedication time here,” Michigan-bred rocker Bob Seger said. “I’d like to dedicate this to everyone in the building.”
Wearing true blue jeans, a Triumph Motorcycles T-shirt and a wide grin, Seger burst into a kicking rendition of “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll.” He grasped the mic stand, hips shaking from side to side as he fist pumped high into the air. Clearly, Seger won’t stand for anything less than rambling old-school rock.
This is not a plea for understanding — this is Seger’s war cry, nearly 50 years in the making. Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band burned more rubber on stage than any street chopper out of Detroit City at PPG Paints Arena Sept. 28. Seger’s “Runaway Train” tour makes 24 stops through North America and has many fans contemplating whether this will be Seger’s last ride.
He took a quick jab at his age by grooving to John Fogerty’s “Old Man Down the Road.” Seger should not kid himself like that. He may be 72, but his ability to capture the restless teenage spirit through lyrics and stage presence makes the music timeless.
“All right Pittsburgh, let’s roll,” Seger said as the shimmering guitars of “Roll Me Away” initiated the Silver Bullet Band experience. Bob Seger took a loose approach to performing in front of thousands — his modesty made it seem like he was singing in the mirror and not for a packed arena.
“Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You” describes Seger’s struggle to abandon long-time vices and get over a lover that left him. Part of his music’s longevity is due in part to his trusty fan base — the crowd reception was enormous. He strapped on a black headband for the gentle and breezy “You’ll Accomp’ny Me.” The acoustic guitar complemented Seger’s vocals, still fresh after decades of touring.
If you ever question if the man’s still got it, just listen to the thick, seductive nature of “Come to Poppa” or “Her Strut,” which portrays Seger as the biggest lady-killer east of Lake Michigan. But credit is also due to the Silver Bullet musicians — a sweeping backing band with a vehement lineup of horn players.
“I Knew You When,” with a release date scheduled for Nov. 17, will be Seger’s 18th studio album. He gave PPG Paints a sample with “Busload of Faith,” originally recorded by the late Lou Reed. The song challenges who you can depend on and pushes the idea that faith is the secret to survival.
Before things get too philosophical, the Silver Bullet Band merged into “The Fire Inside,” nicknamed “dueling pianos” for its scattered keyboards, handled by Craig Frost. Seger took the seat of a baby grand for “We’ve Got Tonight,” a straight-from-the-heart invitation to stay a little longer. Soon, every phone flashlight arose in the building as a “lighters up” moment — a sight the Silver Bullet Band definitely did not see back in 1978.
But it was “Turn The Page” that captivated the audience the most that night. Perhaps it was the serene mystique of Alto Reed’s saxophone that tends to linger in the mind. Seger gave Reed a firm fist bump for his striking sax work.
“I’ll tell you, I am a lucky guy,” Seger said. “I get to play with these guys every night.”
Though Seger highlighted their experience, the concert felt rushed at times. Perhaps songs were abbreviated because of time constraints, as the concert lasted just shy of two hours.
The band approached center stage for a final bow, but the audience knew this was just a tease. For their unsurprising encore, The Silver Bullet Band returned nearly as fast as their namesake for the profoundly nostalgic “Against the Wind.” Though it’s been 37 years since its release, the lyrics remain poignant.
“I was living to run and running to live / Never worried about paying or even how much I owed / Moving eight miles a minute for months at a time / Breaking all of the rules that would bend.”
The instant crowd delight was a stirring rendition of “Night Moves,” in which Seger reflected on seemingly endless adolescent nights on the town.
In “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” the Silver Bullet Band reminded Pittsburgh that the passing of time cannot take away those passionate “sweet sixteens.” Let us never forget the Herculean sound of Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, no matter how many miles might be under the hood.