There are soundtracks to movies, television mini-series, documentaries and more. Then there are perhaps the biggest ones of all: The soundtracks of our lives.
We all have them. Songs or bands, performances or concerts that have influenced who we are, who we dated, how we evolved as teens, Many of these moments from the past still dominate our present: Who hasn’t heard a song and been transported to another time in their lives? Who hasn’t cried, laughed or smiled when a certain artist’s music fills the air?
Bob Seger is an artist whose music has touched, influenced and affected people beyond the genre of rock ‘n’ roll and far from the borders of his native Michigan. His music dominated this entertainment journalist’s soundtrack starting with the Night Moves and Live Bullet albums (both 1976), then Against the Wind (1980), The Distance (1982) and Like a Rock (1986).
The Spectrum in Philadelphia was an oval located on the corner of Broad and Pattison Streets — a multi-purpose facility that was home to the 76ers, the Flyers and more events than one could count over its lifespan. Those hallowed halls were also where one very excited young writer saw Seger for the first time, shortly after the release of The Distance.
First level seats, good friends and heavy anticipation permeated the air, The murmur of the crowd turned to a roar once the lights went dark and a raven-haired Seger took the stage. The next two hours were an endless stream of some of the best high energy rock ‘n’ roll ever created. This wasn’t just a concert, this was an experience — one that saw Seger give it his all from the first chord to the final note.
If Bruce Springsteen writes songs for and of the working man, then Seger’s material belongs to the common man. The lyrical content of his songs (“I used her, she used me, but neither one cared”) tells stories of youth, youth grown up, love, love lost, tongue-in-cheek fun and more all wrapped in re-oriented blues chords and great piano licks.
After The Distance came Like a Rock and another tour — another opportunity to see the now not so raven, short-haired Seger. There may have been some snow on the roof but there was still a “Fire Down Below.” This time he opened with “American Storm” and The Spectrum was rockin’ once again. Seger was two for two and had indelibly impressed this young-musician-not-yet-turned-journalist’s mind.
The Spectrum has since fallen and across the parking lot in its place now stands The Wells Fargo Center. On Oct. 29, 1986, the price for floor seats of the above-mentioned concert was $17. Fast forward to Nov. 1, 2019, and tickets sold for 10 times that amount for seats in the second level. The reason for the inflation is simple: Concert-goers are gouged regularly by the industry. It’s become the rule, not the exception, but concert-goers attending the last appearance of an influential rock legend are going to pay, regardless of the cost.
Seger chose the Wells Fargo Center as the site for the last stop of his Roll Me Away Tour — supposedly the last show of the 74-year-old rocker’s road career. The building was abuzz from top to bottom with the same anticipation oozing from the decidedly older crowd. Many were former Spectrum denizens, discussing ghosts of Seger concerts past.
It would be easy for me to continue to wax poetic or, like several others, post the final set list with a rave review of what truly was a spectacular show. Or perhaps go on and on about his energy level. But I’ll take a different route.
Thank you, Bob Seger. Thanks for the memories, thanks for turning up the car stereo for more than four decades. Thanks for being there during good times and bad, happy and sad, and for inspiring this musician to new heights. Thank you for giving “every ounce of energy” away.
After a two-hour, 20-minute show that included no intermission and two encores, it was fitting that you ended the night with “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” When those last notes rang out, accompanied by thunderous applause, and you left the stage, so did a huge piece of this man’s youth.
“So you’re a little bit older and a lot less bolder than you used to be.” Thank you once more, “Ramblin Gamblin’ Man.” You’ve touched many, rocked hard and will most definitely be missed.
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