“Here’s how old I am,” Bob Seger told the audience of 15,000 a few songs into his sold-out concert Friday night at Enterprise Center.
“In 1950, when I was 5, my family drove out to Los Angeles and we came this way, and my dad yelled, ‘There it is, son — the Chain of Rocks Bridge!”
Seger may have some years on him — he’s 73 — and his career is older than the landmark for which St. Louis is known today, the Gateway Arch. He has traveled enough miles to make him want to call his current tour his last. But for the two full hours of his Enterprise show — easily his best St. Louis performance in years — he didn’t look nor sound like someone who is ready to retire.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer wasn’t maudlin nor even particularly sentimental about this being his final go-round. When he mentioned it at all, it was with a joke. “Next year I’ll be available for weddings,” he said.
Golden anniversary celebrations may be more appropriate, for one of Seger’s signature hits, “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” was indeed released half a century ago. But let’s not belabor the point. The appeal of Seger’s brand of straight-ahead, unpretentious, blue-collar heartland rock — played here in the heart of the heartland no less — is more timeless than that.
Friday’s concert made good on Seger’s October 2017 date, which was postponed so he could undergo spinal surgery. He seemed fully recovered from that setback, moving freely about the stage and pumping his fists as he delivered rockers such as “Face the Promise,” “The Fire Down Below” and “Old Time Rock and Roll.”
Perhaps because it was only the fourth night of the tour, Seger was in full control of his already gritty growl of a voice, which sounded especially fine when he sat down with an acoustic guitar to deliver slower songs such as “Mainstreet” or his hit cover of Rodney Crowell’s “Shame on the Moon,” which Seger said he hadn’t played onstage in 25 years.
He was backed by the 14-piece Silver Bullet Band, which gave a hard R&B edge to “Come to Poppa” and “Her Strut.” Seger left the stage to let the group jam extensively on the classic segue between “Travelin’ Man” and “Beautiful Loser.” Individual members of the group, especially guitarist Rob McNelley and pianist Jim Brown, were given ample time in the spotlight, and saxophonist Alto Reed — an essential Seger cohort since 1971, played his signature riff to the ultimate road anthem, “Turn the Page.”
Seger dropped in a few brief anecdotes during the show. “Like a Rock,” he said, was about his days as a high school cross-country runner; he wrote “The Fireman’s Talkin’” for his brother-in-law, a firefighter, and dedicated it to those who suffered from and fought the recent California wildfires; and he noted that the ballad “We’ve Got Tonight” was “my mother’s favorite song that I ever wrote.”
During a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” the video screens displayed photos of legendary musicians who had passed away in recent times. Among them were Leonard Cohen, B.B. King, Tom Petty, Chuck Berry and Glenn Frey, the latter of whom, Seger noted, sang background vocals on “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” Seger ended the set proper with that very song.
He returned for a pair of encores, the first featuring “Against the Wind” and “Hollywood Nights,” while the second brought “Night Moves” and, appropriately, “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.”
That song title is a hopeful — and maybe flat-out wrong — sentiment, because of course it does. But it won’t soon forget Bob Seger, nor will his many St. Louis fans.
Blue Water Highway, a roots-pop quintet from Austin, Texas, opened the show with a brief performance including original songs “Burn My Heart” and “Medicine Man” and covers of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends” and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”
“Face the Promise”
“Still the Same”
“The Fire Down Below”
“Old Time Rock and Roll”
“The Fireman’s Talkin’”
“Shame on the Moon”
“Roll Me Away”
“Come to Poppa”
“Like a Rock”
“You’ll Accomp’ny Me”[CQ]
“We’ve Got Tonight”
“Travelin’ Man”/“Beautiful Loser”
“Turn the Page”
“Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man
“Against the Wind”
“Rock and Roll Never Forgets”
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