Steve Miller rolled into town Friday night and at 70 years of age, the space cowboy delivered his classic 70’s hits and more, quite flawlessly.
The evening started off with ‘Jungle Love’ followed by ‘Swingtown’ and ‘Take the Money and Run’ after which he casually remarked, “Hi, everybody, good to be back.”
Then he pulled out his harp and did a little harmonica solo before launching into ‘Living in the USA’ from 1969. Then it was time for a ‘Serenade’ and ‘The Stake’ with its Rocky Mountain Way riff. Miller talked about being here in Winterpeg after turning the microphone over to Sonny Charles who sang the Jessie Hill tune ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’.
At this point the band got the blues. Steve Milller started out in Chicago as ‘The Steve Miller Blues Band’ before moving to San Francisco where they shortened the band’s name to ‘The Steve Miller Band’ and became a little more pop oriented.
Miller’s band actually backed Chuck Berry on his Live at the Fillmore album in 1966.
Steve Miller was born in Wisconsin where Les Paul and Mary Ford used to visit the Miller family. After hearing Steve playing a guitar at five years old, Les Paul remarked that, “Perhaps he will be something someday.”
The family then moved to Texas for a period where the young Steve was exposed to some amazing musical influences. When he was old enough he moved to Chicago.
In his Friday night show at MTS Centre, blues time featured ‘Further on Up the Road’ with Sonny Charles’ fine vocals complimenting Miller’s bluesy guitar licks nicely. ‘I Just Got Back From Texas’ was even bluesier and the band couldn’t have been tighter.
“It’s the Joker’s 40th birthday,” Miller told the audience as a 10-foot tall joker mask was brought onto the stage. The band did a trio of songs from the 1973 album, the bouncy ‘Mary Lou’, ‘Sugar Baby’ and ‘Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma’.
They saved ‘Loving Cup’ and the title track ‘The Joker’ for later in their set. Miller seemed to enjoy the audience singing along with him on ‘The Joker’.
After ‘Dance Dance Dance’ with some nice piano playing by Joseph Wooten, the band left the stage and a large banner of a space cowboy was the backdrop for Steve Miller’s solo acoustic set, or as he referred to it, “the campfire part of the show.” Miller still has an amazing voice and his guitar playing has never been better.
Magic was in the air and ‘Abracadabra’ the ‘Space Cowboy’ kept on Rock’n Me’. Miller had one complaint about the evening and that was that his production manager left ‘Space Cowboy ‘ off of the set list. But this was a problem that he gladly corrected. (Although he asked the audience if he should bring the production manager on the stage for a whipping).
The last song before the encore was ‘Jet Airliner’, a number the band performed on November 10, 2011 at the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington.
The band left the stage briefly before coming back for the encore with Miller’s huge hit ‘Fly Like an Eagle’. They did a wonderful 11-minute version of the song. There were two giant Pegasus’ (a recurring theme throughout his career) facing each other behind the band on the stage.
Other than that not much flash or gimmicks, but with songs like these that are forever etched in peoples minds who needs gimmicks. The songs speak for themselves. I think Les Paul saw something in that 5-year-old boy 65 years ago. “Perhaps he will be something someday.”
Most of the musician’s who played with Miller on these classic hits passed away between 2009 and 2011, but the musicians he is playing with now seem to have all the bases covered.
Personnel: Steve Miller- Electric and acoustic guitar, harmonica and vocals; Jacob Peterson – Electric and acoustic guitars, vocals; Kenny Lee Lewis – Bass; Joseph Wooten – Keyboards; Gordy Knudtson – Drums; Sonny Charles – Vocals.
Opening band Matthew Curry delivered a set of blistering blues. The 18-year-old Curry proved to be quite proficient with his left handed axe. He was backed by a rhythm section and organ. Pretty straight ahead blues.
Take the Money and Run
Living in the U.S.A.
Ooh Poo Pah Doo
(Jessie Hill cover)
Further on Up the Road
(Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
I Just Got Back From Texas
Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma
Dance Dance Dance
Wild Mountain Honey
Gangster of Love
True Fine Love
Fly Like an Eagle
All photos by Doug Kretchmer