Normally, attending a concert of a band from the 60’s and 70’s can be a pretty predictable experience. Most of their set lists on tour will be identical and will mostly be made up of the hits that they put out during their heyday with maybe a few songs from their new album sprinkled in. Any other stop on Steve Miller Band’s tour may follow this formula, however, for their show at The Austin-American Statesman Skyline Amphitheater on July 26th, the band decided to have fun and surprise the audience with a different kind of show.
The show began just like other shows on the tour with “Jungle Love” starting the set, which got the crowd of mostly 50-somethings onto their feet to dance and sing along. They kept the audience on their feet by launching into “Take the Money and Run”, complete with the hand clapping parts that were part of the studio release. After playing their 80’s hit “Abracadabra”, Steve Miller announced that he had some special Austin guests coming out. The first of the two blues legends invited to the stage was guitarist Jimmie Vaughan, which got Austin music fans roaring in anticipation. The second guest of the night was legendary blues harmonica player James Cotton, who has performed with many bands but most notably was a part of The Muddy Waters Band for twelve years. Miller also noted that Cotton was celebrating his 80th birthday that night.
Miller announced that they would be taking the audience on a journey for the next five songs and reminded the audience that rock and roll started from the blues. The blues set began with Steve Miller’s “Caress Me Baby” and went on to include classics like Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues” and the classic standard “44 Blues”. Throughout the five songs, vocal duties were traded off between Miller and Vaughan, with Cotton getting his fair share of harmonica solos in. During this segment it was easy to forget that you were watching a pop-rock band from the 70’s, and when the “Jimmies” left the stage, Miller mentioned that “people in most towns would call that an indulgence, but I know you guys don’t think it’s an indulgence.”
The rest of the concert played out in a similar fashion to the rest of their tour with the exception that they pulled a few songs off the set list to make room for the blues jam. Miller mentioned that he had written their first hit, “Living in the USA” when the DNC was in Chicago and “it was a circus…and here we are again.” The rest of the show was mainly a sing-a-long with hits like “The Joker”, “Rock’n Me” and “Fly Like an Eagle” being played. Miller also played a part of “Jet Airliner” acoustically before telling the audience that he was just trolling them and they would play it properly later.
After encoring with “Swingtown” and “Jet Airliner”, Miller brought Jimmie Vaughan and James Cotton back on stage to take a bow. It would have been nice if they had come out to play along with one of the encore songs, however, it was a nice reminder of what had made that concert special to begin with.