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Published: 3/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Bob Seger is no stranger in this town

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Bob Seger's shows in Toledo at Huntington Center on Saturday and next Thursday are the beginning of a 24-show test drive of the rocker's voice and stamina.

If he holds up well, expect him to continue touring in the fall after releasing an album of all-new material. If not, perhaps he'll retire.

"I'm turning 66 on May 6 and I'll [tour more] if I still feel like this isn't the last thing. If I feel like maybe we should do this again, I will finish the new album and we'll go out in maybe October, November, or December and do another 24 shows because we've missed a good deal of the country on this one," he said in a telephone interview from his Michigan office.

"It's kind of a feel thing. At my age I just want to see how I hold up and I could probably tell you the answer to that around May 1."

Don't mistake Seger for a maudlin aging rocker making a victory lap, though. In a 20-minute interview he was loose and in a good mood, frequently launching into infectious, wheezy belly laughs.

Asked if touring is tough after a long lay off, he unleashed peals of laughter. "It is when you're my age. The thing that gets the most tired is my neck, hitting the high notes and a lot of the stuff that plays well live onstage has a lot of high notes."

He and the Silver Bullet Band -- with Craig Frost (of Temperance), Chris Campbell, and Alto Reed as the core members augmented by a horn section, Donnie Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad on drums, Mark Chatfield, Jim "Moose" Brown, and backup singers -- have been rehearsing for seven weeks.

Bob Seger Bob Seger
CLAY PATRICK McBRIDE Enlarge
Seger said they get together for six hours a day two to three days a week, ironing out the setlist and working on various songs. He would not divulge what the band will play because he wants fans to be surprised.

With a backlog of tunes that includes "Old Time Rock and Roll," "Night Moves," "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," "Beautiful Loser," "Against the Wind," "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," "Fire Lake," "Turn the Page," and more, it'll be difficult to not leave something out. Seger said part of the fun of preparing for these shows is coming up with new twists for the songs.

"We're actually getting a marching band bass drum," he said, once again breaking into laughter. "It's for one song and I don't want to give away what the song is but it's one we haven't done in years and it's pretty early in the set as kind of a surprise song. We're going to try that and it might not work. I'll know when I hear it."

He's at peace with his older material and doesn't feel like songs such as "Old Time Rock and Roll" are a burden after having played them for 30-plus years.

"I'm very fortunate. I'm very blessed. 'Old Time Rock and Roll,' especially. I can't tell you how many kids have sang that song for me or how many weddings, where they [play] 'You'll Accompany Me' or 'It's You' or they do one of my songs. People send me letters to the office and tell me that and it's really heartening," he said.

His sons, ages 16 and 18, will be with him for the Toledo shows and he said they have figured into the new material he's written. He draws subject matter for the songs from his conversations with them. He also has released via the Internet his cover of the Tom Waits song, "Downtown Train."

Toledo has been kind to Seger over the years, selling out his arena shows and helping spur along his career back when he was playing local clubs. He said it was easy for him and manager Punch Andrews to add a second show to the city when the first one sold out so quickly.

One thing he won't be doing Saturday or next Thursday is taking the stage in the short-shorts and tube socks he sported at the Speedway Jam in 1983.

"Oh, God, I looked like such an idiot ," he said. "I'm a huge basketball fan and back then that's how the NBA guys dressed. I was also a jogger. .. I know that was a terrible, terrible look. My wife saw that and said, 'What were you doing?' It was hot! It's not a rock and roll look at all. From that day on after I saw the pictures I said I'm never going to wear shorts onstage again."

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band will be at Huntington Center in downtown Toledo Saturday night and next Thursday. A few $70 seats had been released for sale at press time, but the shows are mostly sold out for both 7:30 p.m. shows. They're available at the Huntington box office, 500 Jefferson Ave., all TicketMaster outlets, ticketmaster.com, and by calling 1-800-745-3000.

Contact Rod Lockwood at rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.



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