Bob Seger summed up the staying power of a 50-plus-year career by the second song of his Nashville concert on Friday night: “Still the Same.” The 1978 single was the de facto theme of what the Michigan rocker has dubbed his Travelin’ Man Final Tour, as Seger delivered a 22-song set of classics and deeper cuts with a workingman’s conviction and ethic. At 73, he remains a vibrant elder statesman of rock & roll.
Bolstered by a remarkable 14-member Silver Bullet Band, including the venerable Alto Reed on saxophone and Nashville aces Rob McNelley, Greg Morrow and Jim “Moose” Brown, Seger was in superb voice and showed no lingering effects of a recent back surgery that threatened to prematurely end his touring career. Instead, he moved about the stage with ease, pumping his fists and clapping along to up-tempo staples like “The Fire Down Below” and “Her Strut.” The latter was particularly freewheeling, with Seger having some fun with the lyrical conjunction, swapping out “but” for an intentionally tongue-twisting option: “they do respect her — however — they love to watch her strut,” he sang. Such dad humor and gestures endeared Seger to the graying boomer fans who made up the bulk of the audience.
But while burners like “Old Time Rock & Roll,” the potent one-two punch of “Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser” and a marvelous “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” ratcheted up the energy in the Bridgestone Arena, it was the ballads that best highlighted Seger’s status as an American troubadour. “Like a Rock,” inspired by his teenage years as a cross-country runner, was appropriately nostalgic, “Against the Wind” still poignantly addressed the cruel passage of time and “Turn the Page” evoked the isolation and loneliness of those who live and work far from some semblance of home.
Seger also took time to weave in a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” paying tribute, complete with projected archival photos, to late stars like Tom Petty, B.B. King and Glenn Frey.
At the midpoint of a four-song encore, “Night Moves” appeared to work its unfailing magic, before Seger welcomed fellow Detroit son — and current Nashville resident — Kid Rock for a show-closing “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.”
“He’s one of the best singer-songwriters in American history,” he said of Seger, before following his host’s lead and dancing his way through the 1977 anthem. “It may be his last time in Nashville,” Rock said, “but I sure hope not.”
Seger’s tour resumes next week in Indiana and runs through May.