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“You know I’m old, so I sing old songs,” Bob Seger cracked at one point Wednesday night to the throngs of devotees packed into Los Angeles’ Staples Center for a sold-out show. Seger was smiling when he said it, but he wasn’t entirely joking. Though he’ll have a new album out in 2012, the Rock & Roll Hall Of Famer’s current tour is an exercise in pure nostalgia, covering his more than 40-year career as the unofficial spokesperson for the everyman.
A show built entirely around the past isn’t as easy as it might seem. In the hands of less capable artists, it can come across as stale or even somewhat sad — like a relic from another time, passe, maybe even irrelevant. But not where Seger is concerned. The 66-year-old rocker pulled off the performance expertly for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being his incredible enthusiasm.
From the opening number “Roll Me Away,” Seger played each of the 20 songs in his stellar set list as if it was the first time. Leading the crowd in fist pumps, with hands often raised and grinning from ear-to-ear, he sold songs like “Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You,” “Katmandu” and “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” like they were his current singles. Case in point: before playing “Hollywood Nights,” he introduced the 1978 song by telling the crowd, “I can’t wait to play this one.” It was obvious he meant it.
Seger’s folksy charm extended to his between songs banter, too, where he frequently played storyteller, recalling how a scene in the film The Sting inspired the hit ballad “We’ve Got Tonight” or how Jane Fonda, whom he described as “a great artist,” was the subject of “Her Strut.” He even dedicated a song to Tina Turner, 1975’s “Nutbush City Limits,” which she wrote.
Most impressive and no doubt pleasing to the 20,000 in attendance was Seger’s instantly recognizable voice — still smooth and powerful as ever. On songs like the gorgeous “Mainstreet” and “Turn The Page,” where you could hear the crowd chant along to every word, to the whimsical “Against The Wind” and the acoustic opening of the classic “Night Moves,” you’d be hard-pressed to identify which decade it was outside those arena walls.
Indeed, to his fans, who embraced during “Old Time Rock and Roll” or yelled along to the majestic “Beautiful Loser,” it was 1978 all over again. And on this night, with Seger as your tour guide, there was no better place to be.
Roll Me Away
Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You
The Fire Down Below
Old Time Rock and Roll
Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man
Hey Hey Hey Hey (Goin’ Back To Birmingham) (Little Richard cover)
Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser
We’ve Got Tonight
Nutbush City Limits
Come To Poppa
Real Mean Bottle
Turn The Page
Against The Wind
Rock and Roll Never Forgets
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