The 65-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, class of 2004, made up for lost time with a triumphant tour opener heavy on hits and middle-aged nostalgia. If this 24-city spring tour, which includes another stop in Toledo on Thursday, does prove to be Seger's swan song, he's giving fans a 25-song dream set, including several early-career rockers he told the sold-out crowd he dusted off for the first time in years such as "Her Strut" and "Come to Poppa."
Save for the just-released cover of Tom Waits' "Downtown Train," which will appear on Seger's upcoming album, the newest song on the setlist was 1982's "Roll Me Away," which opened the show. This was a concert unapologetically about Seger's past, celebrating the Detroit rocker's longtime connection with fans through a collection of working-class songs about love, life, lust, and rock and roll that have in the most literal sense touched lives.
1. "Roll Me Away"
2. "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You"
3. "Her Strut"
4. "Main Street"
5. "Old Time Rock & Roll"
6. "Downtown Train'
7. "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man"
8. "You Never Can Tell"
9. "Good For Me"
10. "Travelin' Man"
11. "Beautiful Loser"
12. "Natbush City Limits"
13. "Come to Poppa"
14. "It's Your Thing"
15. "Gets Ya Pumpin' "
16. "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight"
17. "We've Got Tonight"
18. "Turn the Page'
19. "Sunspot Baby"
20. "Horizontal Bop"
22. "Against the Wind"
23. "Hollywood Nights"
24. "Night Moves"
25. "Rock and Roll Never Forgets"
Wearing blue jeans and sporting a white Toledo Mud Hens jersey with the appropriate No. 7, Seger wasted no time getting into the mood of the night, pumping his fists like a boxer to the backbeat of the song, before jumping into his standard cover of the "good-old Memphis song" "Trying to Live My Life Without You." He followed that with the strip-club grind of "Her Strut" and the mellow "Main Street," a wistful song about youthful infatuation, and the crowd of 8,205 — a near-record — never left their feet.
And when the familiar opening piano riff to "Old Time Rock & Roll" swept through the arena, delirium set in. The audience echoed Seger, word for word, just as most in attendance have done so for years while listening to the rock staple on vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD, and now MP3. It was one of several times during the show when the performer and his fans connected on such a visceral level.
Seger took the only chance of the evening next with "Downtown Train." With the mighty Silver Bullet Band working the oft-covered song, "Downtown Train" received a bigger, more muscular musical treatment than previous versions, including the best-known cover by Rod Stewart, though Seger's take still can't shake off the adult-contemporary feel of the tune. Most concert-goers didn't seem to mind and stood their allegiance to Seger and his band through the entire song, followed by a more than polite response.
Attention spans weren't challenged further, with Seger going back to his wheelhouse for 1968's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." Maintaining the golden-oldies feel, Seger joked "so now, because it's me and us, we go from old to older" and launched into Chuck Berry's 1964 gem "You Never Can Tell," an appropriate cover considering most of Seger's rockers are interchangeable with Berry's.
A few songs later and Seger was closing his 50-minute first set with "Beautiful Loser," before taking a seven-minute break. True to his words, he and the band — longtime members Chris Campbell (bass), Alto Reed (saxophone), Craig Frost (keyboards), as well as former Grand Funk Railroad drummer Don Brewer, Columbus native Mark Chatfield (lead guitar), and Jim Brown (guitar and keyboards), as well as the Motor City Horns: John Rutherford, Mark Byerly, Keith Kaminski, and Bob Jensen — were back onstage precisely seven minutes later, burning through "Nutbush City Limits" and "Come to Poppa," before Seger yielded the stage to his three back-up singers, Shaun Murphy, Laura Creamer, Barbara Payton, and their cover of "It's Your Thing" by the Isley Brothers.
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From there it was an easy slide into the first intermission with sing-along hits ("We've Got Tonight," "Turn the Page" — Reed's lonely sax wail opening the song sent chills through the air), and fan favorites ("Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight," "Sunspot Baby," "Katmandu").
The two encores were nothing but classic-rock heavyweights: "Against the Wind," "Hollywood Nights," "Night Moves," and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," the last number an appropriate cap to the evening.
Nearly 15 years since Seger performed in Toledo, local fans haven't forgotten. And neither has Seger.
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.