Some artists are so consistent that it almost makes them underrated. They don’t have the valleys, so their peaks tend to be taken for granted, and they can’t make any well-publicized comebacks because they don’t really have any low point from which to come back. I thought of this the other day when I heard a bunch of songs from Bob Seger’s latest album, on which the 69-year-old writes with the same plainspoken eloquence and sings with the same verve and fire as he did on his finest records.
While his churning rockers have rightfully earned their hallowed place in rock history, Seger has also shown a deft hand with the slower ones throughout his career, such as the sublime “We’ve Got Tonight” from his 1978 smash Stranger In Town. Something about that plinking piano riff that starts the song immediately tugs at your heart. On the surface, the narrator is trying to convince a woman to stay the night, but really the song is about two wounded souls seeking a temporary respite from loneliness.
Much of the song’s success depends on Seger’s soulful vocal. He starts off all fragile and vulnerable, but ratchets it up onto another level as the music rallies around him. It falls away again in the final verse, leaving him to build it all up one more time. “Why don’t you stay?” he belts at the very end, and we’re left hanging on the answer.
Since I consider this song a Weeper, I guess I must believe that she says no. But even if she says yes, there’s always the day after, when the spell wears off and these two have to go back to their isolated lives. “We’ve Got Tonight”, a rhapsody for all those futilely hoping that the short dash of a one-night stand can mitigate the long run of solitude, takes Bob Seger’s consistent excellence and raises it a few notches, which is saying a whole lot.
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