Nine Tonight

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

Capitol Records, 1981

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Bob Seger has long embodied the American spirit of success. Despite many releases in his early days as an artist that didn't sell well, he continued plugging along until his "last gasp" effort, Beautiful Loser, hit the big time. His music has always appealed to the blue-collar worker, probably because Seger was one of them.

In 1981, Seger was quite possibly riding the peak of his success, coming off his album Against The Wind and the hits it contained. The time seemed right to follow up his original live effort, Live Bullet, with a recording of the early '80s Silver Bullet Band preserved for time. That album was Nine Tonight, an album that contains many songs that please, but like many live albums, it fails to convey all of the energy the actual live show probably had.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Recorded over several dates in Boston and Detroit, Seger and crew tear through some of their best-known songs of this time, as well as through some surprises. After a solid opening with the title track, Seger and crew kick into a cover of "Tryin' To Live My Life Without You," and doing a pretty good job with it. One can imagine Seger strutting the stage during this and many other cuts on this set that do their best to turn the energy of a live show in to an audio recording.

However, this has always been the most difficult challenge for any artist who records a live set for mass consumption. And while Seger and crew often sound like they're giving it 110 percent onstage, it's not as convincing without being able to see them in action. For example, his massive hit "Night Moves" occasionally sounds like Seger is going through the motions on this one, and would much rather be singing something else.

Some of the songs don't translate as well to the stage from the studio. "Old Time Rock And Roll" suffers without that familiar piano opening, while "Against The Wind" and "Fire Lake" really do lack something without Seger's friends from the Eagles assisting with background vocals.

This, fortunately, is not the case with all the songs on Nine Tonight. "Rock And Roll Never Forgets," "Her Strut" and "Hollywood Nights" all rock with great ferociousness, and even the ballad "We've Got Tonight" holds up well, especially with the passage of some 17 years since this set was released.

The Silver Bullet Band is especially tight in this inception, which included ex-Grand Funk keyboardist Craig Frost. Whatever you think of Seger, you do have to admit he's always surrounded himself with top-notch musicians.

One word of warning: If you buy the CD instead of the cassette or even the ancient vinyl, you will get a shortened version of the album's closer "Let It Rock". (It would be nice to see Capitol re-release this title with a restored version of "Let It Rock". If Metallica can go past the 74-minute limit of a CD and put out such drivel as Load, then Seger should be given his due.)

Live Bullet, in the end, is still an enjoyable listen, and could be Seger's best live release. But no matter how good this one is, it definitely isn't meant to be a substitute for the real thing on a concert stage near you.


Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.