As Steve Miller's best material is pushing 40 years old, it's somewhat telling that he headlined the Marcus Amphitheater in 2008, and Wednesday, he opened Summerfest at the brand new BMO Harris Pavilion.
To me, that says one of two things: Either the Tosa native wasn't big enough to headline the Amp in '08, or this new side stage is big-time enough to land acts that previously, fans had to pay big money to see.
I'll let someone else make that call, but having seen and reviewed Miller now twice in four years, I can say that this classic rock band, when it's doing what it does best, still gets people on their feet. Is the music safe, pitch-perfect recreations of the '70s album rock we've all heard a million times? Sure. Is it fun, summer music with a Wisconsin connection? Absolutely.
This spring, the Steve Miller Band released "Let Your Hair Down," so tonight's show wasn't strictly an oldies act. While Miller has continued to record steadily – albeit less frequently – since his 1968 debut, "Children of the Future," everyone in attendance was at Summerfest tonight to hear the hits.
Songs like "Jungle Love," "Take The Money And Run," "Abracadabra," "Fly Like an Eagle" and more, which Miller breezily nailed with aplomb. The first two tunes were a little rocky, but by the third, Miller was locked in. It was nice, too, to hear him talk about a Summerfest performance in 1974, as well as his relationship with the late Les Paul.
The only problem with the two-hour show was the middle section, where Miller got so bluesy he took the wind out of the crowd's sails. Yes, this audience was older than most shows I've seen at Summerfest, and it also featured the most sitting I've ever seen. I saw some people even leaving before it was over.
Also, Miller featured a backup singer who's cheesy dance moves were both sincere but a little distracting. His voice was excellent on the songs he led (while Miller played lead guitar), but it felt like a little much.
Miller closed with "Jet Airliner" and "Rockin' Me," before an encore that included "Swingtown," "Space Cowboy" and "The Joker." I was especially happy to hear "Space Cowboy," which is not "The Joker," but is my favorite of Miller's songs – and one he didn't play last time I saw him. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best version I've ever heard, but "The Joker" felt as nice as the first time I heard it.
Miller also mixed in a few covers, including "Tramp" by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas.
At 68 years old and decked out in business-casual classic rock garb and sunglasses, Miller might look like your boss jamming at the company picnic, but he sounds just as good as ever.
In all, it was a nice, reliable start to this year's Summerfest, but I was more excited to see this new stage. It's amazing that after all these years, the Big Gig continues to reinvent itself, and the BMO Harris Pavilion is well laid-out enough to stand on its own, even outside of Summerfest. With actual recessed seats, it felt like a smaller, more intimate Marcus Amphitheater – but it also got mighty hot tonight and could've used some fans.
The bleachers that no one sits on remain a pet peeve of mine, but the concept of reserved seating for a side stage is a good one. As usual, the acoustics and sound shaping at Summerfest is second to none.
Not perfect nor sold out, but certainly enjoyable, Miller – like Summerfest as a whole – was warm, inviting and familiar tonight. That's good enough for me.
Take The Money And Run
Further On Up The Road
Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma
I Want To Make The World Turn Around
Wild Mountain Honey
Dance Dance Dance
Livin' In The USA
All Your Love (I Miss Loving)
Fly Like An Eagle
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published Nov. 18, 2014
Take it for what its worth, but Playboy Magazine has Blue's Egg as one of its 101 best breakfasts in America (don't worry, the link is reasonably safe for work). The restaurant at 317 N. 76th St. came in 21st place out of 23 Midwest selections, just behind Mickie's Dairy Bar in Madison.
Published Nov. 11, 2014
Can you imagine how social media would've melted down exactly 101 years ago? Nov. 11, 2013 was the end of the "Big Blow," the "Freshwater Fury" or the "White Hurricane," a hurricane-force blizzard that killed more than 250 people and and destroyed 19 ships.
Published Oct. 28, 2014
I really didn't have any hope left after 25 days. As we entered the fourth week without our sweet, kind, missing cat, Jabie, I was beginning to come to peace with the reality that I'd never see her again. Then, yesterday, less than four blocks from home, a woman called my wife and said she had cajoled a black cat into her basement. My wife bolted home from work and immediately recognized Jabie coming up the stairs. Just to be sure, she took her to the closest vet to scan her microchip. And it came back as a match from Elmbrook Humane Society.
Published Oct. 22, 2014
Apple's new killer app, Apple Pay, may indeed someday change global commerce for good. That day isn't here yet, however. Three days after launch, my experiences with the NFC-based payment / tap to pay system show that Apple Pay is still very, very beta. At this point, you may find yourself using it barely at all.
Published Oct. 21, 2014
Mazen Muna, the owner of the Dogg Haus group of restaurants, shared his plans today to launch PhantomBar this spring at 780 N. Jefferson St. in Cathedral Square. The bar is under the umbrella of his new 12AM Management Group, which Muna says he founded to house "the new wave of businesses being added to the portfolio."
Published Oct. 16, 2014
Well before the Chinese eCommerce company Alibaba began making IPO rumblings in America, I was familiar with its offerings. I'd never bought anything from it ... until this month.
Published Oct. 8, 2014
Once upon a time, I figured that the magnificent, serene and beautiful Door County is a place only to be enjoyed by adults. Maybe my priorities have changed, though, because even after 20 years of visits, only recently did I come to the conclusion that kids could fall in love with this magical retreat, too. Turns out I was right. After the summer rush died down, we took our daughter up to Door County for the first time this weekend. It was a wonderful journey.
Published Oct. 7, 2014
Just about a week ago, our sweet little cat, Jabie, disappeared from our Bay View home. Maybe one of us left the patio door open a bit, I'm not sure. But after hours upon hours of walking the neighborhood, taping up posters and talking to every stranger we see, she's still nowhere to be found.
Published Sept. 27, 2014
I've been lucky enough to see the Dandy Warhols live several times over the last few years. But each time, I've had to travel to Chicago or Madison to hear them, which is a small sacrifice for one of my favorite bands over the last 15-plus years. So the opportunity to see the Dandys at Turner Hall was a welcome one, and as usual, provided for a great venue to see the Portland-based band Saturday night.
Published Sept. 23, 2014
Sunday morning, we headed to Mequon to pick apples, although not to Barthel's. On a friend's tip, we visit R-Apples (Roesch Farm), right next door at 12422 Farmdale Rd. What a wonderful, low-key experience. Not only was it peaceful and quiet, we picked apples and pears of many different varieties. Then we headed to their vegetable garden, and picked peppers and raspberries.