The Eagle Has Flown:
The Steve Miller Band
Northern Lights Theater Milwaukee, WI - May 21, 2007




Concert Review by
Paul "Zombie" Kloiber

Welcome to Swingtown, where any Joker can Fly Like an Eagle while Livin' In The USA. A magic place where, with a simple Abracadabra, you can hop a Jet Airliner, Take the Money and Run away for some Jungle Love or Wild Mountain Honey.

Sounds nice, doesn't it? We all remember the musical genius of the man who coined the word pompetous. Now I don't know about you but all these songs and more were a big part of my childhood and teenage years. I remember cruising with my friends and laughing about being a midnight toker as we took our own tokes in a smoke filled car or someone's basement. Steve Miller isn't what anyone would call the typical rocker. He looks more like an English teacher from some local high school. But when he straps on that guitar there is little doubt who and what he is&and that is one of the most original rockers of the 70's and 80's.

Steve Miller

After all these years I finally had a chance to see him again (last time was nearly 15 years ago) and I was looking forward to a great show. Steve chose to surround himself with a great band including Joseph Wooten, Kenny Lee Lewis, Bill Peterson, Gordy Knudson and the venerable Norton Buffalo who has been playing with Steve over 30 years. I was sure this would be a night to remember. Coming out with both barrels blazing the band kicked off the night with a fifteen minute long ripped up version of the classic "Fly Like An Eagle". This was an all out, free for all, jam session. With nearly each member of the band taking off on a solo of some kind at different times during the song, it included a guitar solo, a wicked bass solo and a keyboard solo that would have made Rick Wakeman take notice. Joseph Wooten even came out and did a rap style vocal add-on in the middle. However even with all his musical mastery I had issues with the vocals. I know that with age the voice fades, but these vocals were still rough even with that consideration.

Kenny Lee Lewis and Bill Peterson

Next up was "True Fine Love" followed by the 80's hit "Abracadabra". Again while the music was in fine tune the vocals were rough and it seemed like Steve had a hard time playing and singing simultaneously. When he sang the guitar work tapered off and when he played the vocals were sporadic at best. The audience however seemed to be soaking it up as people were already dancing by their tables. Next up he went off on a blues tangent with seven down and dirty blues jams including "Mercury Blues", "The Stake", "Just Got Back From Texas", "Tore Down", "All Your Lovin'", "Shu Bada Du Ma Ma Ma Ma" and very nice cover of the old Robert Johnson standard "Crossroads". I have to say the blues songs that they played were a nice diversion from just playing the common hits and showed off the talent in the band, especially Kenny Lee Lewis and Norton Buffalo.

Norton Buffalo

Taking a break between songs Steve gave us the story of how he acquired the unique guitar that he had brought out to the stage. Explaining how way back in 1965 when he was on the television variety show "Hullabaloo" he had stopped off at a Times Square music shop where he pulled the 19 string guitar from a barrel at the front of the store and history was born. With that he went into an excellent version of "Wild Mountain Honey". From this point on the show was just pure fun, with people dancing and singing along to all the words to every remaining song. "Dance Dance Dance" filled the aisles, "Rockin' Me" had couples dancing all the way to the doors. "Take The Money and Run" and "The Joker" ended the set with an abundance of energy and party vibe that was infectious. Even I was bouncing in my seat.

Joseph Wooten

After the obligatory five minute break from the stage and with the audience still on their feet and cheering, the band retook the stage and cranked up the fun another notch. Leading off the encore with "Swingtown" there was no need for a mic on the stage as the audience sung the lyrics full volume. It was party time and these people came to dance and sing with their idol of so many years. "Jungle Love" followed by "Jet Airliner" polished off an energetic encore and had the people on their feet for a standing ovation.

Now truth be told I was very pleased by the musicianship and innovation (who'd have pictured Steve Miller adding a rap to his most famous song) and less than impressed with the vocals on the classic tunes that made this guy a star. But the energy and connection that he built with the audience overcame most of the shortcomings and flaws. If you want to see a really fun show and have a good time then by all means go grab a Steve Miller concert. If you're looking for his live songs to sound like the radio cuts and the vocals on your old vinyl then I suggest you just pop on your headphones and keep on toking.

For energy, musicianship and a wonderful audience connection this show gets a C+

Photos: Paul Kloiber

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