Bob Seger takes us back to the analog age

Published 2:30 pm Saturday, May 21, 2011

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

“So you’re a little bit older and a lot less bolder than you used to be,” and maybe that’s my problem. It’s very possible that I’m writing this column stuck between the nostalgic glow and warped recollections of a generation gap. That is my disclaimer and I’m sticking to it.

It got loud last Thursday night when Bob Seger packed the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, promising and proving that “rock and roll never forgets.” The audience was a menagerie of “beautiful losers” who were nobody’s demographic, nobody’s fan base and nobody’s fool.

Alexandra Kloster

To my right were a couple of young guys in baseball caps who looked like they wandered over from campus and to my left were a few aging bikers with bandanas eating their heads.

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There is no noun or adjective cohesive enough to explain that crowd. For every student ID, there was an AARP card. Never was it more obvious than when Seger sang, “Turn the Page” to the orange blush of both lighters and cell phones and an applauding roar made of fresh youth and hard living.

There were no costumes or choreography. There was only that voice and those songs, exactly the same as they’ve always been, tough, emotional and a little bit messy.

After a few minutes I starting feeling something awaken, something I thought too many perfectly packaged pieces of pop had killed. This 66 year-old man singing old songs on a mostly bare stage with lighting that would only be cool if you were at a Doobie Brothers concert in 1975, was making me feel dangerously alive. This was rock and roll. This was the soundtrack in your head when you’re riding on the back of a motorcycle hanging on by your knees catching wind with your outstretched arms.

“Say I’m old fashioned, say I’m over the hill,” but lately I feel like I’ve been American Idoled, Glee-ed and YouTubed to death. It feels like there’s a tastemaker in the music industry calculating what we’re going to like before we have a chance to like it and what we should care about before we can decide if we really do care. It’s a machine in perpetual motion shoving its choices down our throats, robbing us of discovery and consequently nothing seems remotely spontaneous. Controversy seems planned and social consciousness feels marketed, and that, my friends, is a huge drag.

It’s not the music’s fault. I’m not one of those people who say, “today’s music ain’t got the same soul.” There’s exciting music happening all the time in every era, but it has a transient nature now that wasn’t there before. Songs are tossed into the culture like seed, but not many manage to put down roots.

When the first chords of “Katmandu” and “Fire Down Below” hit me I stood up and screamed. Conversely, there are songs I downloaded to my iPod two years ago and listened to constantly, but today I cannot recall anything about them.

We have bigger music collections now than ever before, but do they have an identity? You used to be able to flip through people’s records or CDs and get an idea of who they were. Now when you look at the thousands of downloads most of us have it’s hard to say if our tastes are eclectic or just musically promiscuous with no real discernment at all.

We have songs but seldom albums. Nobody ever says, “Come over tonight and listen to MP3s.” We don’t gaze at their covers, read liner notes, and hold them lovingly by their edges blowing the dust off before we set the needle down. We don’t absorb an album and let it change us and move us into a different world.

I remember the first time I saw David Bowie on the “Dinah Shore Show.” I thought he was the most beautiful woman and handsome man I’d ever seen. I ran to my sister’s records and found “Young Americans.” At 6 years old my world my split open and grew. I don’t know if that happens anymore. I hope it does.

The Bob Seger concert hit me hard. It was like finding something I’d thought was long gone. I leaned into the sturdy rhythm of songs that had been with me my whole life and let them carry my weight for a while. The music was “workin’ on mysteries without any clues.” It was moving with the night. “Ain’t it funny how the night moves?” When it was over I went home, I took my old records off the shelf, and I sat and listened to them by myself.

Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at