A Rocking Show

Reconnecting with my old flame Bob Seger in Houston: If only he had Bruce Springsteen's staying power

Reconnecting with my old flame Bob Seger: He's not quite Springsteen

Bob Seger stage
Bob Seger packed them into the Toyota Center in Houston. Photo by Jane Howze/CultureMap.com
Bob Seger close
Bob Seger still knows how to rock a full house. Photo by Jane Howze/CultureMap.com
Bob Seger stage
Bob Seger close

Valentine’s Day night brought a chance to rekindle an old relationship with Detroit rock icon Bob Seger who performed at a sold-out Toyota Center as part of a 30 city tour supporting Ride Out, his first new album in eight years. I had listened to Seger in law school but had largely forgotten about him and decided only last minute to join a friend for the concert.

Just like an old flame, I was curious how Seger, who is two months shy of his 70th birthday, had changed over the years.

Seger wearing jeans, an untucked black shirt and a headband, presumably to keep that mane of silver hair out of his eyes, greeted the mostly middle-aged but wildly enthusiastic audience with a rousing foot stomping “Roll Me Away.” He and his talented 13-member Silver Bullet band quickly rolled into a 22-song set that included several songs from the Ride Out album most notably “Hey Gypsy,” a  Texas blues tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan; “Devil’s Right Hand” (an anti-gun ode) and the only song that seemed a bit lackluster, “Detroit Made.”

 Seger was in fine form. His husky, cigarette laden voice has not changed and unlike some of his contemporaries he was happy, engaged and energetic.  

His panoply of hits dating back to 1967 sounded damn good and reminded me why I liked Seger way back when. He could rock with the best of them and could go tender just as easily.  “Hollywood Nights,” “Her Strut,” and Willie Mitchell’s “Come to Papa” were barn burners and received standing ovations. Similarly, “Mainstreet” and “Old Time Rock and Roll” were a wonderfully potent hit of nostalgia without being dated. 

Seger was in fine form. His husky, cigarette laden voice has not changed and unlike some of his contemporaries (yep this would be you Eric Clapton) he was happy, engaged and energetic. Like most seasoned entertainers, Seger didn’t miss an opportunity to say “Houston” and mentioned that he had not performed here since 2011 but other than introducing the songs, there was not much banter with the audience.

Compared to other aging crooners like Fleetwood Mac and Bruce Springsteen, who put on three-hour concerts, this 110-minute show felt rushed at times.  

My favorite moment was Seger at the piano singing “We’ve Got Tonight” which he said was written in 1965 and was his mother’s favorite song. And “You have to sing your mother’s favorite song,”  he noted. With an intimacy and tenderness that was palpable, Seger showed how you work magic on an audience. 

The show was more than the effortless performance of Seger. It was also about his talented musicians and the enduring power and synergy of relationships. Seger happily shared the limelight with his band many of whom had been with him for decades and two who had joined him more than 40 years ago.  

After two encores, including “Against the Wind” and “Night Moves” the show concluded with a rousing “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” It was all too brief, and while satisfied, I wanted Bob to not be gone so fast and wondered why I had let him go by the wayside 40 years ago.

Bob, it was good to reconnect. Until next time.