Each souvenir booth is neck deep. At least three spot the arena with lines banking out a dozen from the table, and the same in breadth. Not a structured line in sight. Branches of arms weave up and around somewhere toward the tills. It’s a half hour from the back before a chance to see what T-shirts and other merchandise are worth the base twenty-five dollars.
With no mention on the tickets, Grand Funk Railroad open up in a coordinated smash of noise and rock and set up the whole tone for the rest of the night. Perhaps that lone T-shirt choice on the end of the merchandise table against all the Bob Seger gear was the hint. A tune like “The Loco-Motion” sounds a different beast when you’ve grown up with it as a pop single with that Neighbours flavour. The rest of the songs sound familiar enough, but not enough to know the lyrics to. Like finding the radio station settle on that classic rock station but only knowing the song based on refrain. And like that it’s intermission with the ears ready to swap out for the next set of plugs.
Standing is the preferred option when the look of the stage is off to the side. Those unmoving armrests really start to dig into the belly button after a song. After being up at the creep of dawn, it’s quiet time inbetween to see how powerful a nap really wants to take hold. They don’t of course, unless the car itself is facing oncoming traffic.
Bob Seger’s voice drowns out at times with the instruments taking over the volume. Those words floating out of his vocal chords drop into the air, carrying no more, no further. There it is, a hearty whisper against the pounding bass and manic tambourine. It’s a challenge of the ages, the race falling between the melody and wanting for us to spend some time thinking about the days left. There is noise, but it is not vocal and we leave ourselves standing there watching the mouth move waiting for the audio to pick back up.
Seger doesn’t thrash. Not that that is the expectation. But for when those arms do throw up, they go with all the heave and might of pushing out all the energy in each lyric and popping vein. Each stamp and stomp is up for the crowd, basting that dish and chewing it over. “Old Time Rock and Roll” and “We’ve Got Tonight” are at the opposite ends of feet tapping and the command is ever masterful. Those tunes come back, that radio station sizzles into the sounds of actually, yes, you have heard this song before.
The blanket from the merchandise stand is a shimmering throw with the cover art from Against the Wind on one side, an expanse of white nothingness on the other. Someone cut off the fabric tag, so who knows what percentage of asbestos makes up the soft glossy material. It’s warm enough to use as a scarf but a few seconds later and it’s being put in a vice grip, the blood pooling in the cheeks and needing to take that thing down before passing out.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band is a strong game. Their ranks are all over the place in accolades, awards and achievements. And it’s a long time getting through all their storied notches. To the end as the night closes in on midnight there is no dip in the beat and it all feels like a warm up still, ready for more, able for more. Then the lights are out as the final song plays and the band walks off stage.
Encore, Part I, is a work exercise of watching the sit-stand alternating method of crooning and belting them out. “Against the Wind” features behind a piano and is a smooth note down for the night. The elasticity in energy continues unabated. More songs are ready to go, the muscles staying active, but after a handful, the band takes their leave again.
Encore, Part II, is more of a splash with a mix that includes “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” casting to the sides as part of that last breath before finally taking to darkness with the flooding of the stadium lights proper. Like the first encore Seger changes positions between each song, keeping the tone and feet moving, not resting for the shadow to reach out after decades in the game. After a flash of fervour it’s time to finally pull out the pillow and roll away.
Roaches, it’s time to leave when they throw up the big heavies.
Stuck to the floor from dried beer spills in section 115, row H of the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky of the 8 December 2018 leg.
Reviewed on Sunday, 23 December 2018