December 13, 2006 at 1:00 am

Nov. 9, 2006

'It's great to be back!' Seger says

GRAND RAPIDS -- Seger Nation reconvened -- it only took 11 years, but it's as if 1975 at Cobo Hall was just yesterday. People scarfed down too many beers, slow-danced at inappropriate times, and you even saw grandmotherly types try to scoot past security.

It was all for the man of the moment, Bob Seger, who kicked off his first tour in 11 years here at Van Andel Arena. It was a warm, nostalgic set but most important, Seger seemed at ease and loose, even dancing more than we remember him doing back in the day.

There was an appropriate musical introduction -- Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town" burst from the loudspeakers -- then at 8:45 p.m. Seger and the Silver Bullet Band took the stage, opening with "Roll Me Away." Seger's voice and wind were a worry; at 61 he practiced all summer to make sure he could last for two-plus hours. The good news is, his voice sounded rich, deep and burnished, but without the signs of wear he's shown at times in the last few years.

Whatever he's doing -- Throat Coat tea? -- he had the old Cobo Hall roar back. He did complain more than a few times about being out of breath. During "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," he sang the lyric as "Now sweet 16's turned SIXTY-ONE!" shaking his head and laughing as the crowd roared.

At one point he said he'd been practicing for five weeks, and his wife asked, "When are you going to do a whole show?"

"Grand Rapids?" he said, laughing. The crowd cheered.

"It's great to be back!" Seger said right before launching into the old Memphis tune, Otis Clay's "Trying to Live My Life Without You," which the Motor City Horns augmented perfectly.

Many of us were hoping to hear "Rambling, Gambling Man" -- we don't often get to hear any '60s vintage Seger -- but instead he reached back to Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" and encored on "Katmandu," "Night Moves," Hollywood Nights" and "Against the Wind."

We saw the set list, and he had "Rambling Gambling Man" on there, last. Ah, maybe in Saginaw maybe in Detroit.

You can reach Susan Whitall at (313) 222-2156 or swhitall@det news.com.

'It's great to be back!' Seger said right before launching into the old Memphis tune, Otis Clay's 'Trying to Live My Life Without You.' / Brandy Baker / The Detroit News
Bob Seger blasts out "Roll Me Away" and "Trying to Live My Life Without ... (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)
Dennis and Laurie Taylor of Rockford show off their tickets and matching ...