Heartland demigod Bob Seger deserves our respect | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Heartland demigod Bob Seger deserves our respect

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Famed gonzo music critic Lester Bangs once exclaimed, "I respect Bob Seger as much as almost anybody I can think of in the music business today." Bangs’s admiration was mostly due to the fact that since the mid-60s, Seger had paid his dues hacking it out in grimy rock bands, most notably Bob Seger & the Last Heard, which by the end of the decade had morphed into the magnificent, swaggering acid-rock group the Bob Seger System. Earlier this year, the singles produced by the Last Heard (which never recorded a full album) were finally released as an LP compilation, Heavy Music: The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-67, on Third Man, a label from Seger's home turf, Detroit Rock City. The Last Heard were a grunting, sweaty, primal garage band on par with many of their more celebrated peers, and they inspired fellow Michigan rockers such as a young Iggy Pop. It might be unfair to even discuss this era of Seger's career, as he hasn’t played this material live in decades—but the Bob Seger System’s "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" has appeared in some recent set lists, which makes me wonder if Seger might allow their first LP, Noah, to be reissued someday. So back to the issue of respect: Seger is beloved by millions, but I can't help but feel that he doesn't get the same level of mad props as fellow everyman troubadour Bruce Springsteen. Maybe that’s because Seger never fashioned himself a poet, or produced a hip, singular masterpiece such as Springsteen’s Nebraska—though not enough people heard Seger's mellow, downer-folk fourth solo LP, 1971’s Brand New Morning (another way-out-of-print rarity begging to be reissued). Sure, Seger's radio-friendly anthems, including "Still the Same" and "Like a Rock," were rammed down our throats via commercials, but while having a song placed in an ad was considered passé in rock circles for generations, these days it’s essentially on par with getting a hit record in terms of status. And yeah, "Old Time Rock & Roll" is still overplayed, and Spinal-tallica ruined the haunted ode to weary truckers "Turn the Page," but neither offense negates Seger's status as a true heartland demigod. This is supposedly the last leg of Seger’s "Roll Me Away" tour (which stretches into 2019), so if you have some serious cash to burn, go see him belt out "We've Got Tonight," "Mainstreet," and "You'll Accompany Me.” And if you can do it unironically, wave a lighter in the air for me.   v

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