May 7, Conseco Fieldhouse
4.5 stars (out of five)
A woman attending Bob Seger's concert Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse related to someone in her aisle how she tried to get her father, a huge fan, to go with her. I'm too old, he told her. Her reply: "Well Dad, how the hell old do you think Seger is!"
In fact, he turned 66 on May 6. That's not an age you normally equate with rock and roll. In the case of Seger, it's just a number. He may have taken a decade sabbatical to raise two children and he hasn't been able to kick cigarettes yet, but the Motor City legend is still in fine form.
Saturday night was a stellar showcase, not just of Seger's deep and eclectic music catalog, but the talents of his Silver Bullet Band. Over two-plus hours, they blazed through the funky "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" and "Come to Poppa" to the barrel-chested "Long Twin Silver Line" and the jazzy "Katmandu."
Seger's voice still retains that signature rasp, and hasn't lost any of its punch. Nor has the man himself. He was in fighting form all evening, shadow-boxing with the music and multiple times raising his fists in triumph at the enthralling racket he and his band were making.
Immensely aiding the proceedings was a four-man horn section and three backing female vocalists. As one person in attendance said, a horn section makes any song better.
That goes double for Alto Reed, Seger's saxophonist since 1971. On a crowd-moving rendition of "Old Time Rock and Roll,' he traded searing solos with lead guitarist Mark Chatfield. He handled the signature guitar line of "Main Street" with his sax and performed an impromptu embellishment on "Turn the Page" when Seger forgot part of the lyrics.
Seger could've rehashed his greatest hits and still have plenty to fill a setlist. But for someone still in writing and performing mode, he's used this spring tour to display what has unmistakably been a prolific career. The gospel-steeped "Good for Me" fit right in, followed immediately by the seldom-played chestnut "Shinin' Brightly" and the one-two punch of "Travelin' Man" and "Beautiful Loser" that made Seger's Live Bullet one of the most acclaimed live albums ever.
Indianapolis-based Borrow Tomorrow earned the honor of opening the show, and took full advantage of the opportunity. As singer Chris Jerles proclaimed, for four Indiana boys, "This is one hell of a thrill for us."
Lead guitarist Robert Newport transitioned seamlessly between bluesy wail and ragged rock throughout their half-hour set. Jerles stalked the big stage and busted out some Springsteen moves. About two-thirds through the performance, he bellowed "I'm looking for a brand new start" at the end of a sly, sliding country-rock piece. They may just get it.