Old School Freaks Need a Beer: Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band at DTE Energy Music Theater
Nelson picks me up in the afternoon and we take the back roads up to Clarkston. 75 is fucked with construction.
We get there nice and early. The parking lot is empty and we park at the eastern end of it, near where the ski hill of Pine Knob rises into southeastern horizon.
We get out of the car. Over the hill, we can hear the band doing soundcheck — snippets of Mainstreet, You’ll Accomp’ny Me, Travelin’ Man.
The breeze is in the trees and the guardian angel fluffs are about.
“Make some fucking noise, Detroit!” some drunk boomer yells into the empty parking lot.
“Winning,” says Nelson.
Bob Seger’s music, to me, is the sound of America’s golden age. He, along with other acts like CCR, the Eagles, Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Tom Petty, and others. They were earthy, they were masculine in a way that’s probably considered toxic nowadays but to me always seemed noble and sturdy. They remind me of driving to hockey practice with my dad. Now, thanks to passing time, changing demographics, and all the other stuff, they’re disappearing.
The parking lot smells of of charcoal grills. People tailgate responsibly. Spots fill up. Nelson and I wander the outskirts of the venue, an ampitheater on the side of a ski hill. DTE employees wore red, standing at entrances.
We buy a t-shirt and go back to the car. I take a short nap, my hoodie over my face.
We get in line. Radio station booths are lined up along the entrance way — WCSX, Wheels, WOMC. They play Bad Company, Reo Speedwagon and Nirvana
An older woman in line turns and makes conversation — “You two look a little young to be here for Seger.”
“There are younger people than us in the crowd,” I tell her.
“We’re in our 30's,” says Nelson. He tells her about when his dad booked Bob Seger System for a high school dance.
The DTE employees line up and unlock the gates.
We get our spot on the lawn, I get snacks and beer. We wait and wait.
Vendors walk amongst the crowd.
“This is Bob Seger, this isn’t taylor Swift, you all need a beer,” yells one.
“We were coming in here before you were born,” says a grizzled old fan behind us.
“Maybe,” says the vendor, who looks like he’s in his 50’s. “Remember when you could bring kegs in?”
“We brought a lot of shit in,” said the grizzled old fan.
“Take your dates from a 6 to an 8,” yells the vendor, going about his rounds.
The sound system plays When Doves Cry.
“All right, Prince is on the radio, old school freaks need a beer,” yells the vendor.
“Beer, the color of the grain,” says Nelson, swilling his Coors Light.
“High quality h20,” yells a vendor selling tubs of bottled water.
Everyone seems in a good mood with the sun beating down. I buy a hefty bag of cotton candy. Nelson gets more beers.
Beachballs are thrown and batted around by the crowd. These two 8-year-old boys kitty-corner to us are obsessed with getting the balls thrown to them.
Nelson sees a friend of his in the crowd, a guy named Joe. Joe’s with a Tom Cruise impersonator and a Jack Nicholson impersonator. People keep thinking they’re actually Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson and get pictures with them. The impersonators don’t appear to correct anyone.
The opening act appears. Her name’s Addison Agen. A 17-year-old country/folk singer who came in second on The Voice in 2017. Her music is inoffensive, catchy, pop country. She has a pretty voice. She’s bred for this.
I go get a cheeseburger from the vendors, talk with a security guard who has a guard dog with him. I ask him about an old car in a waterfall that DTE used to have. He doesn’t know where it is or if it’s even still here.
Finally, Bob comes out. They do Shakedown. The band fills the stage and music fills the air.
There’s a constant scent of weed, I feel a slight buzz and the accompanying paranoia but there’s nothing but good workman vibes from Bob and the crew.
They burn through hit after hit. Bob’s lower range is intact but his upper range is suffering, husky bark and bellow. He never misses a note though, his 74-year-old legend.
The crowd, mostly aging baby boomers, are as entertaining as Bob. They dance and drink and vape and smoke and photobomb each other. The place is sold out. Bob’s doing like six shows here this month, the last of his career.
There’s a storm approaching from the west, ball lightning blasting up the sky.
Bob does a cover of Dylan’s Forever Young and has a video tribute to Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Frey, Chuck Berry and a couple others. Petty and Franklin get the biggest applause.
Bob looks like the world’s friendliest grandpa, a rock n roll Santa Clause. He wears a black headband for most of the show. His lines between songs are rehearsed. He talks about career highlights, gives intros to song’s history.
Highlights of the show include- Turn the Page, Like a Rock, Night Moves, You’ll Accompany me, We’ve Got Tonight, Roll Me Away, Old Time Rock N’ Roll, Mainstreet. Songs that are like lullabies, like they’ve always been around, timeless
Lighters and cell phones are held aloft.
Bob introduces the entire band, thanks them for a long 50-year career.
There’s two encores.
Working class rock is dead. People are bred for it now, like Addison Agen. Bob Seger beat a career into existence on the road. Nowadays, people move to Nashville or LA or have a song go viral on SoundCloud. Rock isn’t mainstream. Oh, well.
The storm hits just as Nelson and I get back to the car.