At final Milwaukee concert, Bob Seger offers a spirited goodbye fit for his legacy

Piet Levy
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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As they played "Still the Same" at a packed Fiserv Forum Thursday, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band tried to live up to the song's title. 

The three backing vocalists matched the tone and soul of the original recording. The superb Silver Bullet Band — 14 players in total — re-created the sound and feel precisely. 

And Seger brought the kind of boisterous spirit that made him a star more than four decades ago. 

But this performance of "Still the Same" was still very different, in one key way. 

This was the last time Seger would perform the song — or any songs — in Milwaukee.

The 73-year-old Seger's "Roll Me Away" tour – which included his first Milwaukee stop in 12 years Thursday — is his farewell run.

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band performs at the Fiserv Forum, Thursday, January 24, 2019.  Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

And from the start Thursday to the finish two hours later, Seger was determined to make his Milwaukee goodbye a great time.

You'd never have guessed that Seger underwent emergency spinal surgery just two years ago, forcing some show cancellations and prompting this retirement from the road. 

He was frequently on the move Thursday, throwing up those signature fist pumps and baiting for audience adulation from every corner of the stage.

There were charmingly dorky stage moves, too, from jazz hands and air piano during "The Fire Inside," to what looked like a flash of the Chicken Dance for "Hollywood Nights." It was refreshing watching a rock star having such fun, cool factor be damned. 

The exuberance did have one consequence: consistent vocal control. When he was on the move, Seger's voice was noticeably thinner and flatter, with a couple of strained notes creeping in during "Fire Down Below." 

Judging by the fans' response, it was a fair trade-off. And when Seger was physically still, his inviting warm rasp emerged, whether he was tenderly singing his late mother's favorite song, "We've Got Tonight," from behind a piano or delivering a solid rendition of "Like a Rock," with Rob McNelley supplying rugged slide guitar. 

Considering this was Seger's final Milwaukee appearance, we fittingly got a long goodbye. 

During the first encore, "Against The Wind" best encapsulated the night when Seger sang, "Well, I'm older now, but I'm still running against the wind." "Night Moves" arrived during the second encore — the frequently bold band receding for a moment as Seger sang in a gentle whisper — leading up to a swinging singalong finale with "Rock and Roll Never Forgets."

It was a fitting swan song for a show, and a man, who will be impossible to forget.

Grand Funk Railroad opens for Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band  at the Fiserv Forum, Thursday, January 24, 2019.  Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Opener Grand Funk Railroad’s celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, although only the original rhythm section, Mel Schacher on bass and Don Brewer on drums, are still touring with the band.

Frontman Max Carl, lead guitarist Bruce Kulick and keyboardist Tim Cashion joined the group in 2000, nearly three decades after Railroad’s ‘70s heyday. But they brought plenty of crowd-pleasing boogie rock swagger Thursday, as did drummer Brewer, who got out from behind the kit to lead a sweet rendition of “Some Kind of Wonderful.”

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The takeaways 

  • Seger's frequently been starting his shows with "Long Twin Silver Line." But on Thursday, he opted for his cover of Lou Reed's "Busload of Faith," tweaking a lyric to sing, "You can't depend on the politicians." A veiled comment on the government shutdown, perhaps? 
  • While the two-hour show largely stuck to the hits, there were a couple of rarities, including a cover of Rodney Crowell's "Shame on the Moon" that Seger estimated was last performed in Milwaukee 28 years ago. 
  • There also was a newer tune Thursday, "I'll Remember You," which Seger dedicated to his late friend Glenn Frey of the Eagles. Photos of other recently departed music stars — like Prince, Leonard Cohen, fellow Detroit native Aretha Franklin, Gregg Allman, Chuck Berry, and Tom Petty (pictured with Seger) — flashed on the screen behind the stage during the performance.  
  • Seger peppered his set with little pieces of trivia, like "Her Strut's" chart success in 1980, and how his days on the high school track team inspired "Like a Rock." The most interesting tidbit: "Turn the Page" was written in Eau Claire. 

The set list 

1. "Busload of Faith"
2. "Still the Same" 
3. "Fire Down Below"
4. "Mainstreet" 
5. "Old Time Rock & Roll"
6. "The Fire Inside"
7. "Shame On The Moon"
8. "Roll Me Away"
9. "Come To Poppa"
10. "Her Strut"
11. "Like a Rock"
12. "You'll Accomp'ny Me"
13. "We've Got Tonight"
14. "Travelin' Man"
15. "Beautiful Loser"
16. "Turn The Page"
17. "I'll Remember You"
18. "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man"
19. "Against The Wind"
20. "Hollywood Nights"
Second Encore
21. "Night Moves"
22. "Rock and Roll Never Forgets"

More on music 

Piet Levy talks about concerts, local music and more on "TAP'd In" with Jordan Lee, 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9). Follow him on Twitter @pietlevy and on Facebook at


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