"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
If Bob Seger could dictate the ideal demographic profile for someone reviewing his concerts, surely “47-year-old white guy who grew up in Bryant, Ark.” would be high on his list. Add in “who wore out copies of ‘Live Bullet’ and ‘Night Moves’ in high school” and that should move me to the top.
However, that resume wouldn’t necessarily guarantee Seger a good review in this case. Going into his sold-out show at Alltel Arena, skepticism had a clear lead over excitement, with snippets of “Fire Lake” and “We’ve Got Tonight” playing in an endless loop in my head. (To wit: “You remember Uncle Joe. He was the one afraid to cut the cake.”) Add fears over a gravelly voice gone bad and a 61-year-old trying to recapture long-ago glory, and you’ll see the proverbial deck was stacked against ol’ Bob.
Not to worry, as it turned out, because Seger did more than it took to win over this reviewer. And he did it the old-fashioned way, the same way he succeeded in the first place — by working his butt off and clearly having fun for two-plus hours in a set filled with tight, hard-driving, heart-of-America rock songs.
And the crowd absolutely adored it. Only last year’s Rolling Stones show in my experience has rivaled the response, as the 14,141-plus stood, shimmied, rocked and sang along to most every song. Even the five tunes from Seger’s new “Face the Promise” album –- his first release in 11 years — were met with interest and attention, more than most legends’ new material gets. The fact Seger hadn’t played here in years before his decade-long recording break was likely a significant supply-and-demand contributor to the over-the-top response.
Yes, I had to endure the vapid “We’ve Got Tonight,” but the sleek, stripped-down “Sunspot Baby” more than offset that hiccup. No, I don’t find much profound or musically redeeming about “Horizontal Bop,” but Seger’s not the first to enjoy success with a throwaway song about sex.
“Night Moves” also qualifies in the “about-sex” category, but it’s no throwaway. Though it’s been classic-rock-radioed to death, Seger’s acoustic, first-encore rendition was absolutely perfect. And what guy can’t relate to high school thoughts of “a black-haired beauty with big dark eyes, and points all her own sitting way up high, way up firm and high”?
However, this wasn’t a show for dirty old men only. There was a surprising percentage of teens and 20-somethings there, and if the case of the two young women next to us was common, many were folks whose parents played Seger records when they were young. These youngsters were belting out every well-worn word of “Turn the Page” just as loudly and instinctively as we were, and they seemed equally delighted by the “Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser” medley that closed the first set.
Seger’s second and final encore, “Rock ’n’ Roll Never Forgets,” aptly punctuated the experience, as Seger and Silver Bullet Band mates had clearly proved they’d forgotten nothing about how to captivate a crowd and earn their pay.
Congratulations Tara, beautifully written!