“Maybe this is all Seger traffic,” I joked to my friend as we found ourselves stuck in unexpected gridlock on the way to the Gwinnett Center, about a half hour outside of Atlanta. We both laughed, the way everyone else we had seen earlier in the night had when we told them we were seeing Bob Seger (with the J. Geils Band as openers, no less) later on.
Later, as we got closer to the venue—still at a slow crawl—we passed a sign that read “Bob Seger: Stay Straight.” It was Seger traffic. One car, with South Carolina plates, had even soaped its windows to say “Here we come, Bob!”
And why is the idea of seeing Bob Seger at this stage in his career something we tend to laugh at? He may not be hip, but people love Seger, and rightfully so. As we shoved our way through the sold-out crowd (yes, Bob Seger still sells out arenas in 2015), I surveyed the scene: sure, more gray ponytails than I’d normally encounter on a Saturday night, but what was most striking was the genuine enthusiasm felt inside.
And that’s the thing. People should be excited to see Bob Seger. He’s criminally underrated. Just think about the hits he’s got under his belt (all of which he played on this particular show): “Night Moves.” “Against the Wind.” “We’ve Got Tonight.” “Turn the Page.” “Old Time Rock ‘N’ Roll.” “Mainstreet.” “Hollywood Nights.” “Like a Rock.”
Before Seger hit the stage, the J. Geils Band kicked things off, performing their own hits like “Centerfold” (which the audience was surprisingly lukewarm on) and “Love Stinks” (which drew a much bigger response from the crowd). Then it was time for the main event. Seger came out for his no-frills set sporting a black polo shirt, jeans and a black headband, and in a way, his wardrobe matched his set—simple and earnest.
Seger played a good amount of cuts from Ride Out, his newest album that Paste’s Robert Ham says “really feels like someone trying to play to the crowded spot where his various fan bases intersect. The country crowd will delight in hearing the voice of Vince Gill on ‘Listen’ (found on the deluxe edition of the album) and the fiddle and banjo stomp of ‘Adam and Eve.’ The rockers should get ready to pump their fists to the rollicking auto ode ‘Detroit Made’ (written by John Hiatt) and ‘It’s Your World.’ Even the folks that consider his work a guilty pleasure should find some measure of delight in his fuss-free take on the Mermaid Avenue standout ‘California Stars’ and one of Steve Earle’s best songs, ‘The Devil’s Right Hand.’”
Seger dedicated some of the new stuff to the fans who have stuck by him over the years, and it was obvious the words “guilty pleasure” were nowhere near the minds of anyone inside Gwinett Center on this night. Forget those dumb Chevy truck ads—”Like a Rock” is an absolute classic, and all of the lighters and cellphones pointed skyward during Seger’s excellent vocals on it were truly a sight to behold. And on “Night Moves,” one of the greatest, sexiest songs of all time, which Seger wisely saved for his second encore? Phew.
It’s pretty stunning to think just how long Seger’s been around—at various points in the set, he name-dropped Lynyrd Skynyrd and Stevie Ray Vaughan, citing the latter as a songwriting influence on this newest album—and his set at the Gwinnett Center on Saturday served as a welcome reminder that this legendary singer’s still got it and continues to be far cooler than any of us ever expected.