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Posted on Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 5:22 a.m.

EMU Convocation Center ready to host Bob Seger, continuing its development as vital concert venue

By Bob Needham


Bob Seger performs in Grand Rapids earlier this year. The rocker brings his Silver Bullet Band to the EMU Convocation Center on Wednesday.

Cory Olsen | The Grand Rapids Press

NOTE: Come back to tomorrow for an interview with Bob Seger, covering his time growing up in Ann Arbor; plans for the EMU concert; his catalog coming to iTunes; and more.

The Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center hosts an especially noteworthy event on Wednesday: The long-awaited concert return of Bob Seger to Washtenaw County.

Seger, who grew up and started his career in Ann Arbor, hasn’t performed in this immediate area in many years, heightening the anticipation for the EMU show.

But the Seger concert is just the latest in a substantial string of high-profile entertainment happenings at the Convocation Center, which also serves as the home of EMU basketball and hosts a wide range of other events. A combination of factors—including a fairly new, regularly updated facility; a dedicated staff; and aggressive pursuit of big names has turned the Convocation Center into one of the county’s top concert venues.

Always intended as a multipurpose facility, the Convocation Center—which opened in 1998—hosts things like high school graduations (17-18 a year) and job fairs as well as sporting events and concerts. It’s the latter, though, that have really drawn some attention: Names like Jay-Z, Bob Dylan and Dave Chappelle have played the Convocation Center in recent years.

Deadmau5, Wiz Khalifa and Kathy Griffin are among other big names at the Convocation Center; shortly after the Seger concert, rapper Lupe Fiasco and comedian Russell Brand are on the schedule.


Marcy Szabo

Marcy Szabo has worked as assistant director of the Convocation Center and EMU’s Pease Auditorium since November 2004. As the person who oversees scheduling for both facilities, she’s in charge of booking their outside events.

Eight years working for the former concert giant Clear Channel gave Szabo both an understand of the business and valuable contacts that have helped at the Convocation Center. It also doesn’t hurt to have a longstanding relationship with the Prime Social Group, an up-and-coming promotion company with roots in this area (now based in Columbus).


Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band

  • Who: Heartland rocker from Ann Arbor. Frankie Ballard opens.
  • What: Homecoming show in what could be his final tour.
  • Where: EMU Convocation Center, 799 N. Hewitt Road, Ypsilanti.
  • When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
  • How much: $73. Tickets are available online or by phone at 734-487-2282. Information: 734-487-5386.
Szabo and the rest of the staff make a conscious effort to attract events that will interest the broader community as well as those that will appeal to students. Asked about particular highlights, she says, ““The legends are the legends. To me, having Bob Dylan here was amazing. Jay-Z was a big deal for me; that was a hard one to get.”

Szabo is aggressive in pursuing touring acts. But ultimately, the facility has to measure up. She said the appeal of the Convocation Center includes “a great building at an affordable price,” a friendly and helpful staff, and a good ticketing system. With a concert capacity of about 9,500, it’s also a good in-between size for larger acts.

Outside events at the Convocation Center are designed to make money, of course; the proceeds get funneled back in to keep the venue up to date with technology and other needs, Szabo explained. New bleachers were installed this year.

Seger comes home

The Bob Seger concert is a particularly exciting event for the Convocation Center, given the singer’s local ties. Despite the familiarity of online ticket buying these days, Szabo said there were still about 50 people lined up in person at the Convocation Center box office the morning tickets went on sale.

She said when Seger’s management toured the Convocation Center, the fact that the facility sits in Washtenaw County was a definite plus. “They really wanted to make this a homecoming show,” Szabo said.

Seger has a history at EMU, having played its old Bowen Fieldhouse in the 1970s. “It’s really exciting for us here on campus” to have him return, Szabo said.

Bob Needham is director of entertainment content for Reach him at or 734-623-2541, and follow him on Twitter @bobneedham.



Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 3:24 a.m.

All seats are $73. I can't imagine who can afford that at any level except those who have money to burn and no children either. If they were in balcony at $25 I might consider it. Otherwise, I still remember starting Ann Arbor High aka Pioneer on the heels of Bob Seger. Everyone talked about him and the boy who made it big. That was 1978. Sounds like EMU is not going to sell out this gig at any price. Especially on a Wednesday. Wow.

Matt Phillips

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:53 a.m.

I was hoping that Mr.Needham's article about his favorite Seger tracks would also be online but it's not, unless i'm missing it. I always thought that two of Seger's ballads from his early days "Railroad Days" and "Gone" didn't get enough credit, i hope they are reissued some day. Those two, and "Down Home" from the "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" LP, is a great rocker not unlike "East Side Story" and "Heavy Music".

Bob Needham

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

Matt, that story is online now, so I'll move this comment over there as well. Thanks, great choices!


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

I planned on travelling from Virginia to Ypsi to see Bob Seger Wedensday night, but unfortunately can't make the trip. I have two single tickets that I will sell for my cost . . . any takers?


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

I would but can't afford the price this go round. O well. Maybe I'll hang out outside the venue. We live near there. Thanks for the offer hope you get a bite. Usually these tickets sell fast once it is announced. This guy is one of my favorites.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Don't forget to take your Flomax before the show & some Viagra for after the show (know whatahmean wink wink nudge nudge say no more, say no more)


Sat, Oct 29, 2011 : 12:13 p.m.

Wednesday night will rock!