I don't fit that demo to a tee, but I took this assignment with an open mind. After all, I had a few Steve Miller tapes back in high school, and though I wouldn't call myself a huge fan, I genuinely enjoyed -- and continue to enjoy -- his greatest hits. "Space Cowboy" (no, not "The Joker") sports one of my favorite and most infectious bass lines in classic rock music.
Unfortunately, Miller didn't play "Space Cowboy," but he did lead off with "Swingtown," "Abracadabra" and a long, drawn-out version of "Fly Like an Eagle."
Miller, who sounded crisp and clear both vocally and on lead guitar, chatted quite a bit with the audience. It was fun when he spoke about growing up in Milwaukee and attending college in Madison. It got a bit tiresome when he rambled on about Bo Diddley and led into a three-song blues set. He further lulled the audience into submission with a handful of sleepy songs that just might've killed the concert's mood.
After sitting for quite a while, the audience rose to its feet as Miller drove the show home with a parade of hits, including "Rockin' Me," "The Joker" and "Jet Airliner." For this encore, he played a trio of songs, including "Take the Money and Run" and "Jungle Love."
But while Miller was technically sound, his show was average and a bit lifeless. It felt solid but predictable, and the long sleepy middle section took the packed crowd out of the game for the finale. In short, Miller was good -- but he could've been much better.
As for Cocker, I went in suspicious but left fairly pleased. I've always viewed the spastic British "rocker" as a caricature, finding success mainly by covering great songs by the Beatles and others, bluesing them up but generally running them into the ground. I also picture the late John Belushi's impression of Cocker flailing about the stage; so for curiosity's sake, I was intrigued to see if my opinions changed during a live show.
Cocker, at age 64, didn't exhibit the gesticulations I expected. Other than some mild hand twitching and air guitar, he seemed reserved and composed -- only screeching in the appropriate parts of his rendition of "With A Little Help from My Friends." He has a unique voice, and it sounded exactly as expected.
With a top-notch backing band, Cocker (who looked like George Karl and George Carlin melded into one), ran through his hits without skipping a beat. You'd be surprised how many Cocker tunes you'd recognize. In order, he nailed "Feelin' Alright," "The Letter," "When the Night Comes," "Up Where We Belong," "You Are So Beautiful," "Summer in the City," "Come Together" and "Unchain My Heart." He came back for an encore with "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window."
Of course, most, if not all of these songs are covers -- and while they sounded good, I found myself wondering how a guy who just remakes someone else's great tunes can -- in the rock era in which songwriting is generally considered an essential part of the package -- earn the title of "legend." Cocker's surely got the chops -- although he missed the high notes on "You Are So Beautiful" -- but was a great voice all it took when he rose to fame?
Still, both musicians delivered what their core audience wanted.
Though Miller hasn't put out a album of new material since 1993's "Wide River," and he hasn't charted since 1982's "Abracadabra," his show didn't feel like an oldies act. He was psychedelic before his time, and his music still holds up today.
Maybe because he still gets so much airplay, or maybe because his career spans 40 years now, Miller has earned the right to come home and play the main stage -- as he's done several times before.
And maybe it's just because while I don't talk to a ton of people who say they adore Miller, I don't find anyone who says they can't stand him, either. What's there not to like?
Not perfect by any stretch, but at a show where I was the among the youngest in the crowd, the "space cowboy" showed (albeit a little late), that he can still crank it up and rock.
My wife's younger sister and her husband came in from Detroit to visit and attend the Steve Miller concert and a good time was had by all. Being the designated driver has its perks as it is always humourous nature of everyone around but being completely sober to remember it all. I do agree that there was quite the lull in the middle of Steve Miller's set, but I did find his stories of his various memories of the early Summerfest events quite entertaining. In the end, during the latter part of the set and the encore, I left the concert fairly energized and awake.
Shane you walked into the Joe Cocker show with such a preconceived stereotype of this great blues/pop singer. He has the best band in music today.Listen to all the great music on his latest cd's to hear how much fantastic music they can put out.
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