Bob Seger is one of the latest to announce that he’s calling time on his touring career after decades on the road. As we all know, the “farewell tour” is a complicated thing for many artists. After a bit of time off the road, they start to get restless, and eventually, with the right offer, they’re back out there.
For Seger, the idea that he might really be going away seems legitimate. He’s had some health issues in the past year that interrupted a 2017 tour that was initially mounted in support of his latest studio album, I Knew You When
. By the time he made plans to resume the trek a year later, it had been rebranded as the “final tour,” celebrating “five decades of rock ’n’ roll.”
While last night’s show at the Q had a retrospective tone, the legendary Detroit-bred vocalist would only address the pending exit from the road briefly, letting the assembled audience know that it was his final tour. But seconds later, he joked, “I want to let you all know that I’ll be available for weddings next year.”
You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
And don’t you know, we’d all love to be in the house to catch a set from that wedding band. But if we never get that chance, Seger took things out on a high note with a career-spanning two-hour set at the Q in front of a crowd that was packed in to the top of the rafters. While early dates on the tour found him opening the night with the title track from 2004's Face the Promise
, Cleveland was gifted with an exclusive as Seger and the members of the Silver Bullet Band blazed through “Shakedown,” a single from 1987’s Beverly Hills Cop II
soundtrack that earned the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer his second number one hit. The song stayed at the top of the charts for four weeks. With those kind of stats, you’d think it might stick around in the setlist. But it’s been aired out only a handful of times over the years, with Setlist.fm indicating that it made its live debut in 1996 and hasn’t been heard since that same tour.
Seger’s rendering of Rodney Crowell’s “Shame On the Moon” is another rarity, which he said hadn’t been played in more than 25 years. There was plenty of spice along those lines but also no shortage of familiar favorites, often paired with historical anecdotes. The classic “Turn the Page” came to life, as Seger told the crowd, in a hotel room in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Once saxophonist Alto Reed came up with his signature horn part, “the rest was history.” And perhaps Mom knows best as Seger revealed that “We’ve Got Tonight” was his mother’s favorite song. “She died in 1989, so we play it every night,” he shared, sitting behind the piano.
Despite the recent health challenges, Seger was in good form, energetically roaming the stage during “The Fire Down Below,” giving equal time to all corners of the arena. Strapping on an acoustic guitar for the first time during “Mainstreet,” he sat down, strumming the guitar lightly, a moment that felt intimate, which isn't an easy thing to pull off in a big arena, but Seger made it feel like the show had suddenly been transported to a small neighborhood bar. A poignant version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” paid tribute to a number of Seger’s musical peers and influences that have passed in recent years, including Tom Petty, Leonard Cohen, Gregg Allman, B.B. King and Seger’s longtime friend Glenn Frey of the Eagles.
There were plenty of high energy moments as well, with Seger putting the 14-piece Silver Bullet Band through a workout, revisiting catalog favorites like “Her Strut, (“a song about the guys that like to watch the girls”) “Hollywood Nights” and “Old Time Rock and Roll,” which he dedicated to his sister-in-law, who was celebrating a birthday. It turns out that there’s a local connection to boot — Seger’s wife is from Kent. Things came to a close with “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” wrapping up the second set of encores. If this is indeed the final time that we get to see Seger play Cleveland, he left the city with a lifetime of shared memories made on concert stages across Northeast Ohio that will remain intact.
Grand Funk Railroad is in the opening slot for the Seger tour and during their 45-minute set, they celebrated “50 years of funk” with eight songs, seven of which were Top 40 hits. It begs the question, how the heck is this band not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Founding members Don Brewer on drums and bassist Mel Schacher are still carrying the torch, representing the band’s original lineup that first formed in 1969, with vocalist Max Carl, former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick and keyboardist Tim Cashion rounding out the current band, which has been in place since 2000. They turned in an impressive set that was a quick reminder of just what an incredible career they’ve had.