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Bob Seger's sell-out at Palace simply genuine

Susan Whitall
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — After months on the road, a road-tested Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band played a supple, heartfelt set to a sold-out audience at the Palace of Auburn Hills Thursday. It was his 16th sell-out performance there, which is a record for the venue.

It's a testament to that classic bluesy rock voice, after being out on the road for a grueling winter tour, that it can fill an arena with no problem. It's a voice that is instantly recognizable, with a warm, honest timbre that can't be faked.

We won't mention some of the voices we once loved that are now frayed and tired. There are some strong genes or mojo at play that lets Robert Clark Seger sing lead all night without calling in for reinforcements.

He's got his three female backing singers — Barbara Creamer, Shaun Murphy and Barbara Payton — adding a pleasing gossamer layer of sound under his gruff voice, but that doesn't let him off the hook, he has to carry the songs.

Halfway through the show, which followed the setlist the band has been performing in most cities on this "Ride Out" tour, starting with "Roll Me Away," Seger professed himself "lucky" to be playing with the Silver Bullet Band.

Luck has little to do with it. He's managed to surround himself with so many strong players that if he needs to sit down at the piano and play quietly, there's all sorts of pizzazz happening over in the guitar section (with Rob McNelley doing stellar work on Seger's Stevie Ray Vaughan shuffle, "Hey Gypsy" and the "Like a Rock" solo), or up on the horn stand with the Motor City Horns, or anywhere perennial crowd favorite Alto Reed is stalking with his array of saxophones.

Craig Frost takes care to play that swirling, funky "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" riff on the organ exactly as Seger played it on the original single, and Chris Campbell and Don Brewer add a relentless bottom to the mix.

But as Reed said after the show, it all starts at the top. As bandleader and boss, Seger sets the standard for the rest of his sprawling band, and his work ethic has a trickle down effect.

The band enjoys seeing him have so much fun on the road. At the Palace, they were surrounded by friends and family, and shout-outs were common.

Seger took time to point out that Reed's mother was in the audience, and mentioned his brother-in-law, Mark, as the fireman who inspired his "The Fireman's Talkin'" song.

He introduced each song naming the year it came out, and what the backstory might be; pointing out that "We've Got Tonight" was his mother's favorite song.

The audience murmured, sang and shouted out some of his lines about love and lost youth that resonate so strongly even now: "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then," "Workin' and practicin' those night moves."

Singing about the "sweet summertime summertime," Seger paused to yell "Summertime's coming, Michigan!" which elicited one of the biggest roars of the night.

He's certainly earned a sweet summertime of relaxation after ending the fall-winter tour with dates in Nashville and, next week, Indianapolis.

Although we hear he's never played Delaware; Alaska is waiting for its Seger date, and there are several cities in the continental U.S. he hasn't made it to in years. There's always next fall.

swhitall@detroitnews.com

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