July 13--It was the kind of fun, freewheeling night where history shook hands with 2014 and both came out better for it.
Before a mostly packed house Saturday night at 2,000-capacity Orchestra Hall, native son Don Was hosted a diverse collection of Detroit-related performers to take on Bob Seger's beloved 1976 concert album, "Live Bullet." Was' latest Detroit All-Star Revue capped the day for Concert of Colors, the free fest that will wrap up today in Midtown Detroit.
"Bullet" holds a cherished spot in local rock lore, and for artists ranging from teen rocker Blaire Alise to 67-year-old Spyder Turner, Saturday brought a sense of hometown duty to go with a wide-open musical mandate: Play it how you want.
Marshaling an eclectic roster of acts this way often produces a misstep or two, but Saturday's performances were solid from top to bottom. The array of styles -- from gritty soul to Southern rock to Arabic singing -- were a testament to both the Concert of Colors mission and the versatility inherent to Seger's album.
On hand for the festivities were original Silver Bullet members Drew Abbott and Charlie Martin, who hit the stage for a "Let It Rock" grand finale, with Abbott serving up rock 'n' roll guitar licks and Martin singing a verse.
The pair had played on "Live Bullet" at Cobo in 1975, and Saturday was an occasion not to be missed: Martin, who has braved a series of medical issues and is in a wheelchair, said backstage that it was the first event he'd attended outside his Northville home in three years.
Scott Morgan and the Sights got things rolling with a chugging "Nutbush City Limits," as Morgan paid tribute to Seger, Deon Jackson, the Stooges and others who ran in his Ann Arbor circle in the 1960s.
Was strapped on his bass to join several performances, including the Corktown Popes' burly run through "Travelin' Man," Lamont Zodiac's wistful "Jody Girl" and Turner's smoking vintage-soul take on "I've Been Working."
A house band of keyboardist Luis Resto, drummer Terry Thunder, guitarist Brian White and sax man Dave McMurray also popped in and out, backing numbers like Nadir & Steffanie Christian's sinewy "Lookin' Back."
Young Lebanese-born singer Mayssa Karaa galvanized the crowd with a rich performance of "Turn the Page," alternating lyrics in English and Arabic -- the latter rewritten to transform the song into a haunting story of young love, as her manager said later. Her set began with an intro on lute before McMurray kicked in with the song's familiar sax lick.
Other Detroit mainstays offered their own distinctive takes: the Detroit Cobras serving a spiky "Bo Diddley" (dropping in a snippet of Seger's "Lucifer"), the Infatuations getting the crowd dancing with a tight and rocking "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," Luder grinding a dark '90s alt-rock version of "Heavy Music," Doop & the Outlaws doing a meaty "UMC."
Liz Larin revamped the mood of "Katmandu," singing and playing guitar atop a skittering electronic beat and bed of layered vocals.
Two of the night's younger acts -- Jess Domain and Blaire Alise & the Bombshells -- held their own, with a pretty "Beautiful Loser" and ebullient "Get Out of Denver," respectively.
When all was said and done, as Martin said from the stage, it had been a night that saw "the reinvention of a beautiful thing."
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