Bob Seger’s killer band helps the rock legend shine in Vancouver

 

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photos by Jet Sutherland

By Steve Newton

Bob Seger’s choice of walk-on music for his current tour is “The Old Man Down the Road”, which could be Seger’s way of acknowledging that he’ll turn 70 in two months.

Or it could be that he just loves John Fogerty’s swamp-rock classic from ’84.

Either way, it was a great way to kick off Seger’s show at Rogers Arena last night, which saw him roll out over 20 songs, covering material from 1969 (“Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”) though to 2014 (“Hey Gypsy”, the tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan off his latest album, last year’s Ride Out.)

When you’re an artist of Bob Seger’s stature you can pretty well pick whatever musicians you want to accompany you, and he’s done a killer job in that respect, starting with drummer Don Brewer, the guy who wrote “We’re an American Band” and then sang and played the crap out of it in Grand Funk Railroad.

Seger must be quite the Grand Funk fan, because he also scooped up that band’s old keyboardist, Craig Frost, whose skills shone on mellower hits like “Main Street” and “Against the WInd”.

Then there’s saxophonist Alto Reed, who’s been with Seger’s Silver Bullet Band since day one, along with current bassist Chris Campbell. You may recall Reed’s sax from those stirring passages in Seger’s immortal 1973 road song “Turn the Page”. Judging by Reed’s colossal blowing on that tune last night, he should donate his lungs to science when the time comes.

It also doesn’t hurt to have a primo picker like Rob McNelley handling the lead-guitar duties, either. McNelley is a session player who honed his chops playing with the likes of Tinsley Ellis and Delbert McClinton.

Add on a second guitarist/keyboardist, a fiddle/mandolin player, three backup singers, and a horn section, and you’ve got serious backup for Seger’s original coming-of-age anthems (“Night Moves”) and super-funky covers (Otis Clay’s “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You”).

From where I was sitting the sound in the hockey rink was kinda muddy–although I may have been forever spoiled by that acoustically stunning Robert Cray show at the Hard Rock last month–and at times Seger’s vocals were lost in the mix. But when he did come through loud and clear it was evident that his aging pipes were still in good working order.

I just wish he would have done “Till It Shines“.

Concert-goers who dragged themselves away from the beer lineups early enough to see the night’s opening act were treated to a raucous 30-minute set by locals Rich Hope and His Evil Doers, which doubled in size–from a duo to a quartet–for the occasion. Singer-guitarist Hope did his sweaty best to preach the gospel of wild garage-blues, and made a point of plugging his upcoming show with another rock act from the sixties.

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You can get another taste of evil when his band backs up the Flamin’ Groovies at the Rickshaw this Saturday.

 

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