Bob Seger Rides into the Forum 'Like a Rock': Concert Review

Wade Payne/Invision/AP
The blue-collar rock everyman can still bring it, more than 50 years into his career.

The veteran rocker is touring in support of "Ride Out," his first new album in eight years amid talk that he may soon retire.

About halfway through his nearly two-hour Friday night set at Los Angeles' Forum, Bob Seger wheeled out his 1986 hit "Like a Rock" with a preamble: It's been "about 20 years since we've played this," he said. "I hope you remember it."

To use one of his own song titles, "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," especially when said song was hammered into our brain repeatedly in a Chevy Truck commercial through the '90s. While some purists may be upset by the convergence of rock 'n' roll and Madison Avenue, even they have to admit that the ad exec who put that association together scored a knockout. Outside of Bruce Springsteen and perhaps John Mellencamp, there isn't another veteran rocker who speaks to the blue collar American everyman better than Seger.

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And that's just what he did at the Forum and what made Seger's show so successful. With his grey hair, goatee and glasses, wearing a black-button shirt and jeans, Seger could easily be mistaken for one of his own fans. At the Forum, there were no special effects or special guests, just a solid night of "Old Time Rock and Roll" delivered with spirit and near-perfection by Seger and his crack band -- a revolving cast of 12, including Grand Funk's Don Brewer on drums, three female backup singers and a four-piece horn section -- reconfigured throughout the night to fit the need of the song at hand.

In his 1978 adaptation of George Jackson's song, Seger sang, "call me a relic call me what you will / Say I'm old-fashioned, say I'm over the hill." Back then, he was a spry 33-years-old. With his 70th birthday approaching in May, Seger may have put on a few pounds over the years, but he proved he can still bring it. His voice, which he's said in recent interviews will be the "deciding factor" for whether he retires or not, was strong for most of the set, which was filled with a mix of his classic rockers and trademark ballads, performed either seated with an acoustic guitar or at the piano.

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On the rockers, Seger was an animated show man, dancing and throwing up double-fist pumps like an old frat-boy. On the acoustic guitar or at the piano, he showed his more sensitive side, noting before playing the 1978 heart-melter "We've Got Tonight," that it was his "mother's favorite song." As Seger and company performed the song, a few couples were inspired to slow dance in the aisles.

Aside from his own classics, Seger has long been an ace interpreter of other people's songs and that tradition continues on "Ride Out," which contains a few choice covers that he brought to the stage, including John Hiatt's "Detroit Made," Steve Earle's "The Devil's Right Hand" and the Wilco-Billy Bragg recitation of Woody Guthrie lyrics, "California Stars," the latter enhanced by Deanie Richardson's fiddle.

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Aside from generously crediting most of the song writers of his non-originals, Seger also frequently tipped his hat to his band, taking time to introduce the entire ensemble, and also noting the year of release, and sometimes the background of the songs, making the show at times feel like an episode of VH1's "Storytellers," but in the best way possible. Before playing "Turn the Page," a song that was given new life in 1998 when it was covered by Metallica, Seger noted he wrote the song in 1970 at a hotel in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. When he got around to recording it two years later, he added, bassist Chris Campbell and sax man Alto Reed -- the only original Silver Bullet Band members still with him -- were there.

Throughout the night, Reed -- the musician who spent the most time in the spotlight aside from Seger -- shined. On "Mainstreet," his sax lines mirrored Pete Carr's original guitar riffs, bringing to mind another "street" song from the same era, Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street."

Outside of the classic hits, such as "Beautiful Loser," "Night Moves" and "Hollywood Nights," Seger also found time to throw in a song with a message, "It's Your World," an environmental warning that he admitted was a bit "blatant." Although it did come off a bit ham-fisted, that might just be what it takes to get the message across in a day in age in which lunkhead climate change deniers are bringing in snowballs to Congress to shore up their arguments.

Only time will tell if this is Seger's final ride, but even if it's not, this is a show well worth catching before the tour wraps on March 28 in Nashville.

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Set List:

Roll Me Away
Tryin' to Live My Life Without You
The Fire Down Below
The Devil's Right Hand
Mainstreet
Old Time Rock and Roll
It's Your World
Come to Poppa
Her Strut
Like a Rock
Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Travelin' Man
Beautiful Loser
California Stars
Hey Gypsy
We've Got Tonight
Turn the Page
Detroit Made

Encore:

Against the Wind
Hollywood Nights
Second Encore:
Night Moves
Rock and Roll Never Forgets

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