Bob Seger told 14,000 wistful admirers at the Sprint Center on Saturday that he’ll “be available next year to sing at weddings.”
The joke lightened the mood at a bittersweet concert that was almost certainly the final Kansas City performance by the venerable rock traditionalist.
Seger, 73, is on a farewell tour. After dedicating more than 50 years to his signature meat-and-potatoes rock and roll, Seger is entirely justified in retiring from life on the road. While he was a bit creaky on Saturday, Seger seemed to give his all in a two-hour survey of his consequential career.
Fans repeatedly rewarded his effort with hearty ovations. They understood that they were witnessing the end of an era.
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Unlike many of his peers and the majority of today’s hit-makers, Seger’s popularity wasn’t built on a compelling image, catchy gimmick or groundbreaking approach. He’s entirely without artifice or pretense.
Plenty of current acts like Blue Water Highway, the Texas quintet that opened Saturday’s show, have a similarly reverent approach. Yet they’re outliers at a moment in which time-honored sounds are marginalized.
Beginning with his 1968 breakout hit “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” a hearty homage to rock and R&B pioneers like Chuck Berry and Otis Redding, Seger found stardom by reinforcing established conventions.
A dance party broke out during Saturday’s rendition of “Old Time Rock & Roll.” Seger delivered the telling lyrics of his 1979 signature song — “call me a relic, call me what you will, say I’m old-fashioned say I’m over-the-hill” — with customary earnestness. He’s guilty of each accusation, but Seger transformed those faults into virtues.
Wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, Seger waved his arms and smiled widely on rambunctious material like “Hollywood Nights.” The exertion caused him to miss a line or two, but his impeccable 14-piece band extricated him from minor stumbles throughout the show. While somewhat weakened, his distinctive voice maintains its pleasing raspy edges.
More importantly, Seger is as soulful as ever.
He fared best while seated at a piano or while strumming an acoustic guitar perched on a chair during quiet selections. A gorgeous reading of the sly song of seduction “We’ve Got Tonight,” a stellar interpretation of Rodney Crowell’s “Shame on the Moon,” and a recasting of the nostalgic “Night Moves” were entirely persuasive.
While a lucky couple would almost certainly allow Seger to perform anything he likes if he ever wanders into a wedding reception, they should hope he’s in the mood for slow songs.
Set list: Face the Promise; Still the Same; The Fire Down Below; Mainstreet; Old Time Rock & Roll; The Fireman’s Talkin’; Shame on the Moon; Roll Me Away; Come to Poppa; Her Strut; Like a Rock; You’ll Accomp’ny Me; We’ve Got Tonight; Travelin’ Man; Beautiful Loser; Turn the Page; I’ll Remember You; Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man; Against the Wind; Hollywood Nights; Night Moves; Rock and Roll Never Forgets.