November 17, 1995

Lacking Inspiration Crowd Wanted To Hear The ‘70s Hits; The Band Wanted To Play Blues

Joe Ehrbar Correspondent
 

Steve Miller Band Wednesday, Nov. 15, EWU Reese Court

Steve Miller came to play his hits Wednesday at Reese Court on the Eastern Washington University campus in Cheney.

But was it hit songs that he really wanted to perform?

Taking the stage before about a half-capacity crowd, the band quickly headed for “Swingtown.” But during the opening moments of the song, where Miller and crew crooned a series of oh-ohs, they half-heartedly struggled through it. It was as if the part was sucking all of the energy out of their bodies.

A great number of the songs the band performed turned out this way.

Miller spent more time hunched over, singing to the ground, as if he had some severe stomach pains. The rest of the band just sort of bobbed around the stage.

When the poor acoustics weren’t intruding on the songs, the Steve Miller Band sounded great.

It’s not that the members were stinking up the room; they just lacked inspiration.

In a way, you really can’t blame them. People want to hear the mother lode of hits Miller churned out during the ‘70s and ‘80s. It was obvious, though, the seven would have rather played something else, perhaps the blues, which was the focus of the current tour.

Mostly, Miller’s live sound was really no better than his sound on disc. And how could you expect it to be? He’s played some of these songs thousands of times over the course of two decades. Further, classic rock and rock stations have overplayed his hits to the point of overkill.

There were some high points, however.

The Steve Miller Band rocked the house with “The Stake,” a song that has a Joe Walsh-style guitar riff.

The band took a tranquil trip into the psychedelic with “Wild Mountain Honey.” The song was beautifully executed and conjured up quite a bit of peaceful imagery, even if the visual effects and lighting were pathetically lackluster.

Then there was Miller’s harmonica master Norton Buffalo, a favorite in the area. For about the first half-dozen songs all he did was shake a tambourine.

However, when he lent his harp talents, Buffalo single-handedly bolstered Miller’s material, especially the handful of blues songs the band played midway through the show.

Miller seemed to come alive during this portion. His guitar playing took on a more daring attitude. It was suggestive and spontaneous.

“I Wanna Be Loved,” during which Buffalo belted out one smoking harmonica blast after another, was one of the greatest songs of the night.

The only total disappointment at the concert was the security’s conduct. First, security personnel tried to keep people about 3 yards away from the barrier erected at the front of the stage. Isn’t that why there’s a barrier in the first place? With a thousand people pushing their way around, the idea failed, of course.

Then a couple of the burly guys guarding the front of the stage grabbed one diminutively sized kid, obviously not a threat. Yet they felt the need to put a chokehold on him. Way to go security.


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