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 Oct. 20, 2017
Building a bug-out-bag is a smart idea. Whether preparing yourself for a tornado or something more sinister (like the zombie apocalypse, for example), experts suggest you have three days of supplies on hand for whatever life throws you. Publisher Andy Tarnoff did the taste testing so you don't have to.
Published Oct. 17, 2017
It doesn't get much more old-school than Baked Alaska. And, to the best of our knowledge, very few places in Milwaukee still serve it. One place that does, however, is the very retro supper club that is The Packing House.
Published Sept. 25, 2017
The arranged marriage of patriotism, the national anthem and the American flag is completely broken. Anyone who can't see this isn't looking hard enough. So let's not just stand and mumble our way through the national anthem anymore. Let's follow our hearts and our consciences, and respect those who have a different viewpoint than we do.
Published Sept. 22, 2017
On Tuesday, we published a piece looking at some of Glendale-native Kato Kaelin's, uh, passionate tweets about the Brewers and the Packers. After it ran, Kaelin offered us some clarification on tweets.
Published Sept. 19, 2017
Kato Kaelin, America's most famous (infamous?) houseguest, has a lot of things to say on Twitter these days. A self-described Brewers and Packers fan, he has some pretty harsh words about his favorite teams on social media.
Published Sept. 15, 2017
Kieron (Elwood Blues) Lafferty and Wayne (Jake Blues) Catania don't just look and sound like the Blues Brothers - they melt into the characters. At first, I felt like was looking for reasons to remind myself they weren't the real deal, but by "Rubber Biscuit," I embraced it.
Published Sept. 15, 2017
If you go back into the '80s and '90s, you'll see some weird commercials on Milwaukee television. Asking around the office, we all had some spots to share - but a lot of these gems remain only in our memories. Thankfully, some still exist on YouTube.
Published Sept. 2, 2017
Larry Powalisz was an MPD officer from 1973 to 2001. Even though he now lives in Houston, Milwaukee was a natural setting for his first crime novel, "Circle of Terror," which weaves local history and fiction - often in such a vivid way that it's hard to tell what's real and what's invented for the reader.
Published Aug. 25, 2017
"Adulting" has a pretty negative connotation on social media. But when you're in your forties, there's no better way to experience the magic of Door County. Farm-to-table dining, galleries and great coffee, it's time to indulge your grown-up side.
Published Aug. 20, 2017
Gtting good photos of the total solar eclipse will be hard. Not only will you need some proper filters and a bunch of prep time, but you will probably spend more energy in composing the shot than you will in actually seeing the eclipse. Shooting great night photos, however, is relatively easy.