Photo and Story by Scott Smith
Several laid-back grooves, multiple bouncy guitar solos and a terrific six-string tone are what the Steve Miller Band delivered in Tulsa, Okla., on Sept. 28.
Performing at the Tulsa Hard Rock’s Joint for the first time, Miller and his dexterous group leaned heavily on hit-single territory and choice-album cuts for a perfectly paced, 120-minute set. Even the tracks that can’t be found on Miller’s immensely popular “Greatest Hits 1974-1978” album were embraced by the capacity, party-craving crowd.
Miller’s momentum-gathering set kicked off with a high-gear take of “Jungle Love,” with Miller’s pouncing Fender Stratocaster cranking out the track’s legendary guitar riffs. “Take the Money and Run,” with its on-the-road story of two young lovers trying to evade bouts with their own boredom and the gun-drawing police, came second to rapturous applause.
“Abracadabra,” Miller’s hit single from 1982, and the wonderful, vibe-creating “The Stake” also stood at the front end of the set list, while SMB’s “other” singer, the perpetually dancing Sonny Charles, took over the microphone for an outstanding run-through of the old blues-rock workhorse, “Further On Up the Road.”
Other tracks making the Tulsa set list were grade-A readings of the eerie “Fly Like an Eagle” and the sing-along favorite “Jet Airliner,” as well as Miller’s high-decibel salute to all military personnel, 1968’s “Living in the USA.” Miller took a mid-set moment to turn in an acoustic, one-man medley of “Wild Mountain Honey,” “The Window” and “Dance, Dance, Dance,” and he and the band later delivered a perfect take of “Rock’n Me,” a timeless radio classic that has always sounded like the sonic baby of The Beach Boys and The Eagles.
Throughout the joyous evening, Miller was in excellent voice and spirits — can he really be 68 years old now? — and his guitar tone was every bit as rich and unique as it was on the songs’ original vinyl versions. Miller’s undying blues roots stood tall and proud on the Hard Rock’s often-shadowed stage, with each guitar solo highlighted by bending notes and sustained lead passages.
After delivering a near-perfect main set, Miller and his colleagues returned for happy-go-lucky interpretations of “Space Cowboy” and “Swingtown” before starting the opening chords of Miller’s trademark composition, “The Joker.” Deserving its on-going status of pop-culture greatness, the boozy, infectious “The Joker” featured Miller’s inspired, slide-guitar playing and his instantly identifiable voice. Each time Miller smiled from behind his dark sunglasses, audience members found it impossible not to grin back at rock and roll’s Space Cowboy.