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Concert Reviews:
Steve Miller's "Eagle" Still Flies at DTE Concert

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, July 8, 2006

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Over the course of nearly 40 years of recording, Steve Miller has been much more than just the picker, the grinner, the lover and the sinner he purports to be in his 1973 hit, "The Joker." And he managed to put all of it on display over the course of 18 songs Friday night at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Miller and his five-piece band surveyed nearly ever facet of his career during the concert, from pop hitmaker to blues aficionado. His heart really seemed to wrap around the latter, in fact, bringing the most fire to his renditions of "Mercury Blues," "The Stake," Freddie King's "Tore Down" and a bluesified treatment of "Gangster of Love" -- with plenty of room for longtime band member Norton Buffalo's harmonica solos in addition to Miller's own guitar heroics.

Which is not to say that all of the other forms he explored on Friday paled in comparison. The genially loose-limbed "Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma" was the Milwaukee-born, Dallas-raised Miller's nod to the San Francisco scene where he launched his career, while "Dance Dance Dance" gave an airing to rootsy, acoustic Americana and "Wild Mountain Honey," on which Miller played a sitar guitar, veered towards trippy psychedelia.

So did Friday's version of "Fly Like an Eagle," stretched to an indulgent 15 minutes by the individual band members' solos and keyboardist Joseph Wooten's brief rap, which actually wasn't as out of place as you might think but still accented the arrangement's gratuitous length.

Oddly, it was Miller's big hits that didn't fare as well at DTE. "Swingtown" got things off to a strong start, and "Abracadabra," though still a glaring gimmick in his repertoire, benefited from being stripped of its electronic effects. But a closing sprint that included "Take the Money and Run," "Rock'n Me," "Jungle Love" and "Jet Airliner" seemed perfunctory, clearly not as much fun for Miller or the band as the stylistically varied middle of the set. "The Joker" came up aces, but that Teflon entry in his canon -- which had the crowd, packed on the hill and lighter in the pavilion, singing along -- could only be a disappointment if he skipped it entirely.

Miller's audience was also gave a respectful reception to opening act World Party, an exemplary group returning to action after leader Karl Wallinger suffered an aneurysm four years ago. Wallinger brought a trio to DTE on Friday, filling its 45-minute set with exquisitely nuanced versions of "Put the Message in the Box," "She's the One," "Is it Like Today?" and "Is it Too Late?" that had Miller singing the group's praises twice during his show.

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