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 â€“ albeit less frequently â€“ 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 â€“ 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 â€“ 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 â€“ like Summerfest as a whole â€“ 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 Aug. 22, 2016
I've said it for years. Door County means different things to different people. Whether your idea of this magical peninsula is nature or adventure, shopping or relaxing, friends or family - or a mix of everything above, one storyline arcs above all the rest: Door County is what you make it.
Published Aug. 19, 2016
My friend Drew Olson has a new work address. The veteran Milwaukee sports journalist / broadcaster - and former OnMilwaukee.com senior editor - ended an 11-year run as a talk-show host at ESPN Milwaukee (540 AM) last week and will begin a new chapter with The Big 920 (WOKY) on Monday.
Published Aug. 18, 2016
This Saturday, Priscilla Presley - actress, activist and, perhaps most notably, widow of Elvis - is coming to Milwaukee for "Elvis and Me," an open conversation at The Pabst Theater about the life and experiences of the original First Lady of rock 'n' roll.
Published Aug. 3, 2016
I didn't really even know I was interested in driving a motorcycle until the House of Harley invited me to take a Riding Academy New Rider course. In three days, I checked something off my bucket list that I didn't know was on it. I took it seriously, and it was hard. But also really satisfying.
Published July 25, 2016
Jessica Tighe is an appreciative person. While the Elm Grove native has worked in West Virginia, the Quad Cities and La Crosse, now she's home and co-anchoring the morning news on CBS 58. Ask Tighe how it feels and she actually gets goose bumps: "I have family here. I'm invested in this market," she says with a smile.
Published July 11, 2016
Summerfest 2016 may have come and gone, but the memories will live forever - because we at OnMilwaukee took enough photos and video to fill a large hard drive.
Published July 9, 2016
Playing before the Barenaked Ladies and OMD, Howard Jones got the 6 p.m. spot at the BMO Harris Pavilion Saturday night, and while that's not exactly top billing for an artist who had 15 top 40 singles during his career, I'll take it.
Published July 9, 2016
In a word, Paul McCartney was amazing tonight. I feel beyond fortunate that I've now seen him play twice. Now back at the office, at midnight, Bobby is writing the main review, but I have some stuff to say, too. Random stuff, so please indulge me.
Published July 7, 2016
Go ahead; get those laughs out of the way. I'm trying to write a serious review of Anthony Ray's Big Gig show. You, of course, know him as Sir Mix-a-Lot, and unless you listened to his tapes in the early '90s, you probably recognize just one of his songs.
Published June 30, 2016
If you've ever bought an official Summerfest T-shirt, hat or other branded gift, it's first gone through Dan Elias. As vice president of The Specialized Marketing Group Inc., he's managed the merch for the Big Gig for 17 years.