Inside the carnevorous hockey arena, a pack of friends were wearing self-made, hand-drawn, Seger t-shirts. “I am a Beautiful Loser,” read one, a reference to Seger’s “Beautiful Loser,” which would be played later in the night.
All signs indicated the crowd of 13,000 were excited.
But a glance around the arena during, ironically, “Rock N’ Roll Never Forgets” indicated that most of the baby boomers did, indeed, forget. Save for those on the floor, barely a soul in the arena was standing.
Let me make this clear: Bob Seger is a rock artist. While he does have a beautiful arsenal of slower songs — “Mainstreet” and “Against the Wind” to name a few — Seger’s set was mostly packed with the fist-pumping, anthemic, i-want-to-dance-along variety.
The glasses-wearing, grey-haired Seger looked every bit his 66 years. But it didn’t matter. His raspy voice, for the most part, has aged well. And his 13-piece Silver Bullet Band didn’t hurt either.
“Turn the Page,” a ballad about a grizzled rock star, sounded beautifully similar to the 1973 original recording. During the song, Seger took over at the grand piano, while longtime Bullet saxophonist Alto Reed stood stage right. Their chemistry was palpable as they played, illuminated with spotlights, on the darkened stage.
Sometimes when an older artist tours with large backing band it is seen as a sign of their deteriorating talent and stage presence. This was not the case on Tuesday, with the five-person horn section and three female vocalists adding more texture to nearly every song.
Seger did not hesitate to tell stories, too. Prefacing “Her Strut” by saying he wrote it about actress Jane Fonda, Seger launched into the tune which featured a heavy bass line that had fans on the floor grooving.
Unfortunately, on a few songs Seger’s voice was drowned out in the audio mix. But what the Michigan native lacked in vocals he made up for in gusto, pumping his fists, starting clap-alongs and working up a sweat that saw him go through more than a couple headbands in the night.
“Only one place left to go Ottawa — that’s higher!” Seger shouted. Encores one and two followed shortly thereafter, and just like that, the show was over, clocking in at an hour and 50 minutes.
Seger was a class-act showman. 31 years since his last Ottawa gig, he put every ounce of energy into the show. Hit after hit, the crowd certainly appreciated the music, yet remained lifeless for most of the show — until they woke up for the encores.
“Only in Ottawa,” said one woman. In this case at least, I shared her frustration. The 66-year-old Seger certainly tried his best to make the arena shake; it’s a shame most in attendance were too comfortable to feel it.