June 1, 2015
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, TX USA
Review by Justin Press
Photos by John Hunter
Texas' Own Space Cowboy Churns Interstellar Through A Night Of Hits
From blues journeyman to 70/80/s AOR superstar, Steve Miller has run the gamut from roadhouse workhorse to stadium filler albeit with never losing his Texas-bred blues and roots. 40+ years into a career that showed steady growth to stratospheric heights then a leveling off and now comfortable in his 100M album selling skin.
At 71 most would be retired and sailing the seas thru breeze, not Miller, he backed by a formidable band, is out night after night paying the dues and singing the blues. His Monday night performance at Verizon Theater spoke volumes about his catalog, his humbleness and his legacy that included a 3-song stint with Texas blues legend Jimmie Vaughan.
The stage, covered by a large drape with the iconic winged horse of his Book Of Dreams album, lit up as the drape fell to reveal bronzed horse statues adorning the stage as the familiar notes of "Jungle Love" and began what was to be 90 minutes of radio fodder and a smattering of the blues. If you've been to a Miller gig before you knew what expect, a story between each song, a quick intro and away he goes, all killer no filler.
The crime heist saga of "Take The Money And Run" danced out of the speakers, as did his glance into new wave with "Abracadabra," a curious number to this day, part classic rock, part The Judy's, part LA KROQ, Miller keeping with the times. He next dedicated to the late B.B. King and Les Paul, the tracks that gave him his initial mass attention "Space Cowboy" and "Living In The U.S.A.," cream of the crop mid-70's rockers highly influenced by his then psychedelic hometown San Francisco. The acoustic swirl of Fly Like An Eagle's "Serenade" met head first with the "skronky tonk" of "The Stake," and you wonder who came first, Miller or Joe Walsh?
"Sugar Babe," one his tracks when Miller was a heralded and young blues player, lead off a departure into authentic blues numbers with the help of show opener Jimmie Vaughan, no real intro needed, its J.V., period. Gems by Little Walter, Otis Rush and "I'm Tore Down" by the great Freddie King were not for the faint of heart, you could feel the two of them were digging this part of the evening. As the strains of the Texas blues floated to the floor Miller pulled out an acoustic as a nylon string version of "Jet Airliner" came softly out, it was damn near spic and maybe something for him to consider releasing. He took a thundering rock classic and gave it a folky gusto. The best country song you ever heard "Wild Mountain Honey" followed, a lush and pretty piece that really tied Fly Like An Eagle together as an album. As the band re-emerged, this is where the gloves came off.
The chicken picker of "Dance Dance Dance' gave you a breather but soon as your lungs were full here comes "True Fine Love," then "The Joker" which was met with 3000 butts raising off their chairs as the crowd of various ages still seeing if their hips still thought it was 1975. Miller replete in the album's art mask and backdrop took you back to your first joint and your dad's liquor cabinet for several glorious moments. The stoner Goliath of Friday Night Laser Light shows (Pink Floyd be damned) "Space Intro/Fly Like An Eagle" still sounds as big and spacey as it did when it blew the blooms off your Pioneer 8-Track player.
The more down to Earth "Rock N' M" may not have the contact high of F.L.A.E. but it still soars with it's snappy guitars and rhythms and Miller's mid-range voice which to our pleasure hasn't aged a bit. By now the band had us in its hands and for all intensive purposes could let us hit the exit aisles at this point but "Hell why not, hit em' while they're hot" and delivered "Swingtown" the track that cemented Miller's name with AOR Classic Rock radio to this day. And oh yeah, they gave us "Jet Airlinein full flight to send us all homeward bound. It was one of those nights where the fog lifted and your memories became clear as day. And with some luck, you lost your keys too.