Review: Steve Miller Band rocks the Hall, and Tahoe too
The Space Cowboy Steve Miller landed in Lake Tahoe on Friday and offered 5,600 appreciative earthlings heavy doses of classic rock. The newly inducted member and outspoken critic of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame provided his endless supply of hits on a full-moon-lit night filled of flashbacks from the 1960s and ‘70s.
“I remember the first time I played a Lake Tahoe they put me up in Liberace’s house,” Miller mused as he displayed a gaudy guitar that he was given at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was baby blue, even the neck, and filled with sequins.
In contrast to the profanity-laced interview with Rolling Stone, Miller was circumspect, calling for an end to the “petty arguments” about who should and should not be in the Hall.
“It should make it a beacon to the healing power of music and they need to make it more inclusive,” he said. “We should broaden the gene pool.”
The Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys audience cheered its approval. The crowd was awestruck by the presence of the 72 year old with a full head of gray hair. It wanted to hear the classic songs, which Miller supplied in full. The 20-song set lasted nearly two hours.
Highlights included his very first hit, “Living in the USA,” a jazzy rendition of “I Want to Make the World Turn Around,” his pseudonymous anthems, “The Joker” and “Space Cowboy,” and the song “Wild Mountain Honey,” which was dedicated to Norton Buffalo, a 33-year member of the band.
Buffalo, who died in 2009, was the connection to Miller and his two onstage guests, slide guitarist Roy Rogers and violin player Carlos Reyes, both dear friends of the legendary harmonica player. Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings opened the show and were joined by Reyes and keyboardist Jim Pugh.
The Steve Miller Blues Band began in San Francisco in 1966. The name was later shortened but the music has always been blues based. The night’s grooviest moment came during “Mercury Blues” with soulful solos from Reyes, Rogers and keyboardist Joseph Wooten.
“How many here were at the Fillmore in 1969?” Miller asked the crowd, which responded with a roar, confirming that if you can remember the ‘60s, you really weren’t there.
Miller described San Francisco’s old Fillmore. A second-story venue built in the 1920s. On any night of the week, 1,100 pot-smoking, acid-dropping hippies would ascend the skinny stairway to witness the show. Ray Charles on Monday. Johnny Cash on Tuesday. Quicksilver Messenger Service on Wednesday. Country Joe McDonald and the Fish on Thursday. The Grateful Dead on Friday. And on Saturday, the Steve Miller Band, which played the room 120 times, more than any other group.
“Diversity of the audience and the musicians” was the greatest aspect of the Fillmore scene, Miller said.
After playing speedy versions of “Space Intro,” “Fly Like an Eagle” and “Rock’n Me,” Miller and his talented band exited the stage.
The Space Cowboy took 12 hits of oxygen and the crowd called for more. Miller obliged with a three-song encore, which concluded with “Jet Airliner,” a song he had teased the fans with earlier.
When it was over, Miller thanked the audience and reiterated the underlying message from all of his giant hits.
“Peace,” he said. “Love. Happiness. Try to take care of each other.”
Related story: Openers Roy Rogers and Carlos Reyes shine. LINK
Steve Miller Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016 (1 hours, 55 minutes)
1 – Jungle Love
2 – Take the Money and Run
3 – Abracadabra (with Carlos Reyes)
4 – Wild Mountain Honey (with Carlos Reyes)
5 – Livin’ in the USA
6 – Space Cowboy
7 – Going to Mexico
8 – I Want to Make the World Turn Around
9 – Serenade From the Stars
10 – Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma
11 – Winter Time
12 – The Joker
13 – Dance, Dance, Dance – acoustic Jet Airliner intro (with Roy Rogers and Carlos Reyes)
14 – Mercury Blues (with Roy Rogers and Carlos Reyes)
15 – Space Intro
16 – Fly Like an Eagle
17 – Rock’n Me
18 – The Stake
19 – Swingtown
20 – Jet Airliner (with Roy Rogers and Carlos Reyes)
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.