Saturday, July 2nd, The Steve Miller Band rocked Ravinia Festival with special special guest legendary blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite.
Much more than a catalog of rock hits, Steve Miller's blues roots are prominent live on stage. At first brush we largely know Steve Miller for his classic rock mega hits. Some a bit more pop while others are front-n-center rockers. However, Miller has a much longer history first rooted in his youth playing Texas blues with Savoy Brown. The next chapter Miller spent a few years in Chicago playing the blues clubs with James Cotton cutting his Chicago-blues teeth. His affection for Chicago and its beloved electric blues is unablashed. When first signed to a major record deal in the heart of San Fransico's 60's music scene, the blues influence remained ever-present. Just check out his anthology from 1968 to 1972.
His show quickly opened up with well-loved hits: 'Jungle Love' and 'Take The Money and Run'. Whereas Miller could satisfy the audience purely on airplay favorites, he pulled out the stops with a few blues numbers when opening act Charlie Musselwhite came out to blow some harp for 'some blues with a Texas twist' per Miller's introduction. Thoroughly embraced by the audience ending in a standing ovation, Miller continued with a bluely take on a few other passages after Musselwhite left the stage. Specifically, Miller's skillful harmonica playing for the intro of 'Living in the USA' had the crowd completely amped. Curiously he introduced 'Living in the USA' as a 'Chicago song' compairing the '68 Democratic convetion riots with what is penting up today. 'Sugar Babe' from the 1973 'Joker' LP had Miller showing his slide-guitar prowess as he played this deeper track.
He went into another cut from 'The Joker', 'Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma'. A song inspired by Santana's rhythm section and an insight to his late sixties San Fransico residency. Admittingly he said he was grumpy, however later he seemed to be in good spirits towards the audience, including complimenting them as 'the best crowd in the United States'. Miller's set continued with other expected smash hits including 'The Joker', 'Space Cowboy','Big Jet Airliner', 'Fly Like An Eagle', 'Winter Time' closing with ''Rock 'N Me'.
Beyond a night of reveling to well know rock classics, Miller's overall musical message; a truely important take-away, is for all of us to keep the blues alive.
The Steve Miller Band is halfway through his 2016 tour ending early October, 2016. For dates: http://www.stevemillerband.com/tour.html
Photos by Roman Sobus Photography