Music Reviews

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The Forum,
Inglewood, Calif.
Thursday, March 1

Bob Seger never was a "rock" star. He's a rock 'n' roller -- and his show Thursday at the creaky Forum was a pointed reminder of how rock 'n' roll used to make us feel. And still can.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and his Silver Bullet Band rollicked through a joyful show that kept the graying, near-sellout crowd on its feet for most of the two-plus hours. The years have sapped much of the soul from his voice, but Seger gamely delivered all he had, which was plenty. And more important, the songs have held up -- from hit singles to underappreciated album cuts.

During the 1970s and early '80s, Seger was something of a maverick, celebrating rock 'n' roll in the age of rock -- be it corporate, progressive or Fleetwood Mac. And his first local concert in 11 years continued that wave, with song after punchy song extracting the passion of youth and a musical style that moved a generation, or two. And if many of his songs were nostalgic when he wrote them decades ago, they have an entirely different nostalgic effect today.

With two weeks to go in his five-month tour, Seger's voice was a shell of his heyday. Indeed, he occasionally was drowned out by his three backup singers and rarely even attempted any tough notes. Instead, he let his deep, durable catalog carry the show. And with a bare-bones stage, simple lighting and nary a video screen, there was nothing to distract from the singer and his songs.

The pairing of "Fire Down Below" and "The Horizontal Bop" dug into rock 'n' roll's carnal roots, as fundamental as it gets. "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight" was the night's peppiest song, and it was followed by the still-lovely ballad "We've Got Tonite." As jarring as that tempo downshift was, it absolutely worked, with Seger playing gentle piano. Played during the encore, "Night Moves" lost some of its raging-hormones bite, yet it resonated like that song Seger was humming from 1962 while waxing nostalgic in 1976.

The evening featured a half-dozen tracks from "Face the Promise" (Capitol), Seger's first new album since 1995. Most were solid if not wholly memorable, with the standouts being the title track and "Real Mean Bottle," a rollicking honky-tonk tale that featured the guest singer it was recorded with -- "Mr. Kid Rock," as Seger called him.
Humbly clad in a black T and jeans, Seger summoned his biggest vocal effort for the road lament "Turn the Page," especially during the verse about leaving it on the stage night after night ("Every ounce of energy, you try and give away").

And as that page turns, Seger likely is closing the book on his touring career. If so, he's going out the way he always was: a crowd-pleasing performer who gives it maximum effort. And all for a top ticket price of 65 bucks. Long live rock 'n' roll.

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