Here for the Real Thing: Bob Seger's Live Bullet

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“You are here because you want the real thing!” begins Seger’s 1976 release, Live Bullet. Then he and the Silver Bullet Band thunder into Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits.” What follows is over seventy minutes of hard working roots rock recorded live in 1975 at Cobo Hall in Detroit, Michigan. As a Detroit native and one who had almost fifteen years of local success behind him, Live Bullet—the real thing!—was just what Seger needed to break out of the local scene to the national and international audiences he still enjoys today.

Them Times

It was a reactionary time because bands like The Clash, The Ramones, and The Sex Pistols—among many—were eschewing the stale air of the studio and its rows of buttons and panels for something outside.  This dichotomous era in music included such extremes as ABBA and the Bee Gees of Saturday Night Fever days and, at the other end, strummers and screamers characterized by feedback and lyrics outlawed on AM radio.  While Saturday Night Fever soared on the charts and made millions, so did that alternative sound, made up of missed chords and voices clearly affected by screams and emphasis.  Those were the extremes, but in the middle was an authentic rock and roll sound given best expression in live albums of the day. Of this latter ilk are some of the finest live albums of all time, such as Frampton’s milestone and—perhaps less recognized—Bob Seger’s Live Bullet.

Live Bullet wasn’t The Clash or anything new, though it was Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band doing their thing in Detroit, a city that was cresting and known as one the most important rock capitals of the world.  Seger and his band could perform their songs uniquely every time and this album is one of those times.  It’s not one of those “live” albums where the band overdubs in the studio.  It’s just a great confluence of talent on an actual stage at a time when many had chosen to retire—in Beatle fashion—to the studio.  This is one of Seger’s rooftop-moments and it is one of the best albums of his career, ironically leading to the most successful and carefully produced albums of his career, Night Moves, Stranger in Town, and Against the Wind—the latter crossing the line into plain old mainstream and miles away from this wonderful live album with its real rock and roll.  

Lookin’ Back

Live Bullet’s “Bo Diddley” medley, “Travelin’ Man,” “Turn the Page,” and “Beautiful Loser” all illustrate the back catalogue and show a band that’s used to playing live and interacting with an audience.  It’s little wonder that audience expanded with this release. “Lookin’ Back,” clocking in at 2:36 and backed by the audience is the most poignant of all the tunes here—especially as there may be too many people looking back instead of getting ready for the Seger tour of his 2014 release, Ride Out.



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