On 28 May I went to see Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids with my son. This was the last performance of his 2011 tour, and it was a miracle that I was able to get tickets at all. The seats were 10 rows from the stage which gave us a great vantage point to watch the concert.
The lights were up after the warm up band; Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band would be on in a few moments. I looked around at the crowd. A majority were 50 or older, the men were mostly gray, the women dyed. The lights went down as the band and Seger came out, they too were gray haired and older. For a moment I was wondering what this was going to be like, then he launched into Roll Me, Away.
The voice and music were the same that I remembered from the 70s. Years had Not diminished voice or the ferocity of the music. The crowd rose in unison, and within 30 seconds we were transported decades back in time; dancing and singing along.
For the next hour, I was totally enthralled by the music and the emotion that was pouring out of the crowd. Every song he played was familiar to me and every song had a vivid memory attached to it. Through my mind I scrolled through old girlfriends, times spent having fun with friends, late-night rides, and moon lit nights on beaches. All of it was so long ago but the music brought them back to life as the images danced through my mind while my ears were treated to the music.
The audience formed a single unit and our fists rose to the sky in victory at the end of every song, mimicking what Bob Seger was doing himself. The cheers and applause lasted almost as long as the songs themselves. I would look around, when the lights were bright enough, and I studied the expressions on every face. All of us were sharing a moment. The smiles, the looks of longing in the eyes, and at times tears were all being displayed in the open as each of us knew we were sharing emotions that each one of us was feeling. Seger was encouraging us to sing along and appeared to be having a grand time as well.
There was a short break of about 10 minutes when we all collectively caught our breath. I had heard rumor that Seger himself was catching his breath with an oxygen tank due to years of smoking. None of that seemed to matter to us or him, when he was on stage his face showed that he was fully alive and enjoying every minute that he shared with us.
When he came out for the next hour, it was as if the entire band had been magically recharged. The first hour and the second matched in both intensity and vibrance. We rocked out. I noticed a woman who was standing a few rows in front of me. Her hips were gyrating in time with the music in her arms were reaching up towards the sky. She was totally in her own world and from what I could see it was a good place to be.
I saw couples dancing with bodies pressed together during the slow songs. Perhaps they were reliving a bit of romance from the past or maybe the music was creating their first romance that night. I had no way of knowing. It really didn't matter, the effect either way was the same. You knew they were enjoying the music and that it had meaning.
It had been a long time since I've been to a real rock concert. I can't remember one ever being like this where the audience and the artist connected so fully and where both seem to be having such a good time together. More often than not in the past the artist would seem almost aloof or disconnected from the crowd. Seger and his band were not, they were reaching out to become one with us and to let us know how much they were enjoying performing.
Bob Seger sang the road songs, love songs, and the songs of trials and tribulations. His voice never failed nor did it ever waiver. He was performing a concert today with the same energy he had performed concerts for the last 30 years.
When the second hour was over and the band left the stage, the crowd clamored, and screamed and yelled in till they came back out. The band returned and performed three more songs, then exited the stage as it went dark. Again, the crowd went wild. Bob Seger brought his band back out for another encore. It was at this point that he played one of my favorite songs: Night Moves.
The song itself had particular meaning for me as it came along during a period of angst when I was in high school. Even though my experiences at that point were limited to heavy petting, I could identify with the lines “I used her and she used me but neither one cared. We were getting our share”. To me that personified dating in high school where we were all just learning about basic sexuality, love, and affection. It was a time of practice and experimentation. That song captured it so well.
After three hours of listening to Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band’s music and allowing them to take us on this musical journey it was suddenly over. The second encore ended with Rock & Roll Never Forgets, it doesn’t. It was the best damn concert I have ever seen. Seger rocks and I won’t forget that either.