Bob Seger, winding down, returns to rootsy peak form

Bob Seger brought his early R&B style to Atlantic City, but also offered crowd-pleasers.
Bob Seger brought his early R&B style to Atlantic City, but also offered crowd-pleasers.
Posted: April 18, 2011

With Bob Seger turning 66 in May and contemplating retirement from the stage at the end of this tour, the last chapter may be closing on one of rock's great showmen.

From the sound of his scuffed and soulful pipes at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall on Saturday, Seger's going out at the top of his game.

Long before he went multiplatinum in the mid-1970s with the blistering Live Bullet and the contemplative Night Moves (the latter marking his move toward more success in midtempo AOR), Seger was a grimy garage-rocking road dog with a yen for hard R&B.

The Seger of yore was more like pile-driving Mitch Ryder than the Springsteen-ish country gentleman he became in the '80s. Fortunately for fans of his dual nature who hadn't seen him since 2007, the gray-haired singer Saturday played the roles of gutsy soul man and heartland balladeer to perfection. No wonder Kid Rock loves him.

For such bold stadium rock, Seger - with his longtime Silver Bullet Band, an arsenal of horn players, and background vocalists - achieved some genuine sweaty club swagger. The hard living of "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" was reflected in his brusque, aching voice as well as the gruff, Stax-like horn arrangement. The lean, mean crunch of "Fire Down Below' and "Her Strut" were mangy soul stompers, the latter featuring a diabolical guitar solo.

His lusty version of "Nutbush City Limits," cowritten with Tina Turner, out-raunch-ed her classic. The toweringly funky "Come to Poppa," with sax player Alto Reed moving over to the timpani, was Spectorian in its greasy grandeur. That level of majesty rolled on through the clinking psychedelic soul of "Beautiful Loser" and its psych-country cousin "Gets You Pumpin'," from the Early Seger, Volume 1 compilation, a series he'll continue in 2011.

Still, if you were listening for epic sweep, Seger didn't disappoint when it came to the heavy ballads. The breezy strum of "Against the Wind" came across as rote, but with Seger at the piano, the slowly modulated "We've Got Tonight" and the pensively unsteady "Turn the Page" were spare and elegiac. The little-known ballad "Good for Me" was a most graceful slip of a song about wives and lovers. Even the overplayed FM radio staple "Night Moves" had a fresh sense of intimate sensuality.

Seger will be missed.

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