Seger & Geils
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band plays First Niagara Center on December 17. J. Geils Band will open.
Okay, this one is like a big old gift from classic rock Santa: two legends, one stage. The Midwestern-born icon of real-deal American rock and roll and special guest, the fabled Boston soul-rock party powerhouse J Geils Band, play First Niagara Center on December 17. To celebrates this rare pairing, Buffalo Spree is picking the five best songs by each:
Bob Seger System “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”
Long before the Bullets there was the System. For those hipsters and rock elitists that might deride Seger as corporate rock radio fodder or a Chevy truck shill, please point them to this one. It’s a chooglin’ garage blooze masterwork that manages a wild-eyed psychedelia while keeping a serrated no-nonsense Detroit edge. It even managed to chart in the pop Top 20 upon its 1969 release.
Bob Seger "Turn The Page"
Though it all seems like an obvious cliché now (further weakened by Metallica’s watered-down cover), “Turn The Page” was a story untold when issued on 1973’s Back In ’72. It’s a bleak triptych through life on the road as a working musician, and with Alto Reed’s oozing saxophone part and Seger’s grim delivery, it should be enough casue any would-be rocker to rethink their career options. This song was perhaps perfected with the in-concert version on Live Bullet.
Bob Seger “Katmandu”
Though the Silver Bullet Band was about to coalesce into his full-time outfit, Seger had recorded most of 1975’s Beautiful Loser album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with famed session crew The Swampers. It was their knack for country-soul and massed horns, along with Seger pushing his pipes to the absolute limits, that made this Chuck Berry-style ode to chucking it all and moving to Nepal one of the top burners of the man’s career.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band “Hollywood Nights”
It’s got a driving drumbeat, a gospel chorus, and every single word in it paints a story that captures love, manifest destiny, and the American dream in one the most cinematic songs in the rock pantheon. Bob Dylan once quipped, “Some people think Bob is a poor man's Bruce Springsteen, but personally I always thought Bruce was the rich man's Bob Seger.” With that said, we are just going to go ahead and call “Hollywood Nights” Seger’s “Born To Run”.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band “Against The Wind”
Seger has excelled at writing songs refracting time, age, and memory—like “Night Moves,” “Main Street,” “Rock & Roll Never Forgets,” and “Beautiful Loser”—but perhaps never so perfectly as “Against The Wind.” Laden with regret, but striving to move forward, the best part might be the line: "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then."
Bob Seger's latest album Ride Out (Capitol) is out now.
J Geils Band
Forget what you think you know: Peter Wolf is the greatest showman in rock. Roll up James Brown, Little Richard, and Jackie Wilson into a fast-talking bohemian carnival barker and you start to get the picture. On “Must Of Got Lost,” Wolf testifies, begs, pleads with, and brings it all home with more soul and bombast than anyone before or since. When in his early thirties, Wolf stated, "I'll be proud if I'm still rockin' at 42," and now, as he edges close to 70, he is still bringing it every night.
The title track from the 1980 album was the beginning of a shift in sound where bluesy soul was being upended with a modern new wave sheen still bolstered by signature touches like Magic Dick’s harmonica and guitarist Geils’ wiry guitar parts. The change not only worked brought them one of their biggest hits, but helped usher in the video age with a gonzo clip including original drummer Stephen Jo Bladd hitting his kit with a couple fish, gasmasks aplenty, and Wolf and a mannequin cuddling up in matching swimsuits.
With endless radio play in 1982 and a video that helped define MTV early on, this was Geils Band’s biggest hit and for good reason. Keyboardist Seth Justman penned this tale of finding a high school crush years later in a nudie mag hardly seems like Top 10 fodder, but it was. Forging a uniquely early ‘80s pop-soul-blues— not radically far off from Bowie at the time— “Centerfold”—complete with “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah” chorus, Danny Klein’s throbbing bass line, Justman’s soaring keys and Wolf’s irrepressible delivery—is rightfully a touchstone of its decade that continues to hold up.
“Just Can’t Wait”
Another from Love Stinks: take a Rolling Stones riff, a garage-y keyboard line, and a Motown-perfect slab of love and longing for an example of why the kind of greatness the Wolf-Justman songwriting team was capable of.
Like The Showstoppers’ “(Ain’t Nothing But A) House Party,” Marvelow’s “I Do,” and Albert Collins’ “Sno-Cone,” so much of Geils Band’s live set and albums are packed with songs initially borrowed. This one makes the cut not only because it was penned by Buffalo-born ‘60s soul sensation Arlyster “Dyke” Christian for his Dyke & The Blazers, but also because it showed, early on, the Geils Band’s knack for picking lesser known soul and blues, imbuing them with their unique bravado and power, and turning them into their own.
Donny Kutzbach is owner of Town Ballroom and Buffalo's Spree's cocktail writer.