Important questions hovered above the Ford Idaho Center on Thursday night.
Would Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band be one of those historic rock concerts that Boise had waited a lifetime to witness? Like the Eric Clapton show back in 1998? The Rolling Stones in 2006? Or, for relative young ’uns, Pearl Jam in 2000?
Could a 73-year-old man coming off back surgery — a procedure that postponed this event for more than a year — move across the stage, let alone sing?
Hey, was that Garth Brooks in the fourth row?
The answers: 1) Maybe, if you were a Seger diehard with realistic expectations; 2) Yes, but he did sit periodically, starting with the fourth song; 3) Holy cows, Nampa, that was Garth! (The country star apparently had flown into Boise with friends to see the show.)
Seger’s first-ever headlining Idaho concert included all the setlist ammunition that any of the 8,500 fans could ask for. Nearly every tune was a hit, and he played all of them. From “Still the Same” to “We’ve Got Tonight” and “Turn the Page.” (Oops, wait, no “Against the Wind”?) With a few exceptions, this could have been a Seger tour from the 1970s or ’80s.
Well, sorta. That young, long-haired Detroit kid from the “Live Bullet” era is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame memory. Seger is now an affable senior who delivers a solid, workmanlike performance. He wears dad jeans, a black T-shirt and a not-so-rockin’ headband. The Silver Bullet Band may have cranked up “Her Strut” (the best AC/DC riff that AC/DC never wrote), but Seger wasn’t strutting too quickly himself. (Understandably so!) Mostly, he tapped a foot and grooved, often closing his eyes and stretching his hands blissfully toward the rafters.
Early in the two-hour set, his vocals were ... tough. Blame the sound mix, at least partly. The talent-loaded Silver Bullet Band, which contains roughly the same number of members as their frontman’s age, overwhelmed him with horns and guitars and pianos. (In reality, Seger had 14 backing musicians.)
Yet as the night wore on, things steadily got better. Part of the reason? Seger is one of the best-selling acts of all time. Those classic songs that he created have nostalgia power.
Down to earth and self-aware, Seger reveled in the past. He talked about how he loved running high school track. “You know how you feel when you’re 17, 18 years old, after you work out?” he said. (Yep, “Like a Rock.”) “Here’s another one you haven’t heard in about 30 years,” he said, launching into “You’ll Accomp’ny Me” as romance filled the air.
Seger’s still got that trademark vocal rasp, and it shed a few years by the concert’s midway point. When he plopped down at a piano to perform the 1978 ballad “We’ve Got Tonight,” fans on the floor slowly fist-pumped along. When the Silver Bullet Band busted into “Travelin’ Man’,” the dancing got hot and sweaty on the floor. (Watch out, Garth!)
Seger paid tribute to his friend, the late Glenn Frey of The Eagles, before covering Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Images of dead rock icons filled a giant screen above the stage. Instead of it being sad, Seger made it joyous.
Ultimately, it’s what “Roll Me Away: The Final Tour” is about — celebrating a good life: Seger’s, his bandmates’, his fans’.
In case folks started feeling sappy, Seger exited with an energetic bang, finishing with “Hollywood Nights,” “Night Moves” — and, cathartically, “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.”
“So you’re a little bit older, and a lot less bolder than you used to be,” Seger sang. He added “73” as the age in the verse and pointed happily to himself.
It was impossible not to grin back. Idahoans had gotten their long-awaited Bob Seger concert — and it was bona fide “Old Time Rock and Roll.”
We can turn the page.
Now bring on Springsteen. And McCartney. And The Who.