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Concert Reviews:
Steve Miller Band, Marty Stuart play nice together at Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Monday, July 1, 2019

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STERLING HEIGHTS -- It's been more than 50 years since Steve Miller began putting out records. And he's still finding new things to do.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's latest tour -- which stopped Sunday night, June 30, at the Michigan Lotter Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill -- is billed as Classic Rock Meets Classic Country, a pairing with Americana stalwart Marty Stuart and his aptly named Fabulous Superlatives. It might seem an odd fit to some, but only those who think of Miller as "The Joker" for "Fly Like an Eagle" guy from the 70s and don't fully understand his multi-genre musical depth -- well beyond 1970's "Going to the Country."

So Sunday's show was a bit of an education as well as a performance that was, well, fabulous and superlative, for fans and performers.

Stuart and his nattily attired quartet got things rolling -- rollicking, actually -- with a nearly hour-long set that hopped from bluegrass to surf, country to rock. With Stuart passing the ball to let each of the Fabulous Superlatives have some time in the spotlight, With Miller watching from the wings, the troupe tore through covers of the Merle Kilgore/Johnny Cash classic "Ring of Fire" and Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd" as well as Stuart's "Tempted" and the spirited renditions of the group's own "Tear the Woodpile Down," "Time Don't Wait" and "Look at That Girl" to an almost headline-caliber reception from the Freedom Hill crowd.

Having the stage set like that clearly put a little fire under Miller and his band, which kicked off with an adrenalized take of "The Stake," a large video screen showing abundant close-ups of Miller's hands as he soloed, much to the delight of the guitar geeks in front of him. The hour-and-45-minute set was filled with favorites -- primarily hits from the multi-platinum 1973-78 era -- but some of the show's best moments came when Miller and company dug a little deeper, such as an early show pairing of late 60s singles "Living in the U.S.A." and "Space Cowboy," or his bluesified version of Jimmy Reed's "I Wanna Be Loved (But Only By You)."

The gems came, not surprisingly, when Stuart and his band joined the Miller crew for "Going to the Country," "Lovin' Cup" and "Dance Dance Dance" -- preceded by a short discourse from Miller about musical evolutions in the U.S. -- adding harmonies and instrumental richness to each. An extended take of "Fly Like An Eagle," meanwhile, gave both Miller and keyboardist Joseph Wooten a chance to stretch out, and if his stature as a guitarist has been subsumed over the years by the hits, Miller demonstrated considerable range on songs such as "Winter Time" and "Wild Mountain Honey," pulling out a double-neck Gibson SG for the former and a ringing sitar guitar for the latter.

"Rock 'n Me" and an encore of "Swing Town," "The Joker" and "Jet Airliner" ended the night on a high note -- Miller speaking touchingly about his godfather, the legendary Les Paul, before he played a Gibson Les Paul guitar on the latter. He has a lot of laurels to rest on, but on Sunday Miller showed there's also a great deal more that he's interested in exploring.

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