Steve Miller Band plays hit-laced set at F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre
WILKES-BARRE — After his induction, Steve Miller rocked the boat in April when he excoriated the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for its failure to honor women and its lack of consideration toward artists at the ceremony.
The only thing Miller rocked Sunday night was the F.M. Kirby Center, showing appreciation for his fans and playing brilliantly through his celebrated body of work, which got him nominated for the Rock Hall in the first place.
Scranton singer-songwriter Tom Graham loosened up the crowd with his rhythmic guitar style, rootsy vocals and a healthy dose of humor and charm. Set highlights included covers of Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me” and Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Workin,” which resulted in a call and response session with the buzzing audience.
The Steve Miller Band began a hit-heavy set with a crowd pleaser. The polished five-piece opened with “Jungle Love,” establishing its tight, dual guitar sound.
The audience came alive as the band followed with “Take the Money and Run,” which featured a stunning piano solo by Joseph Wooten, of the renowned Nashville, Tenn. Wooten Brothers, and “Abracadabra,” which featured Miller’s soulful scale work and fretboard sound effects.
Miller’s reputation as a sonic technician precedes him, but he showed why he earned the nickname “Guitar” with bluesy improvisation on the wonderfully psychedelic and undeniably catchy “Space Cowboy,” before taking a page from an early chapter of his career with 1970’s “Going to Mexico.”
Another pleasant detour took the form of “Wild Mountain Honey.” Miller played serene sitar and harp sounds on a 19 string guitar, which he explained he bought for $125 at New York City’s Manny’s Music in 1965.
The most raucous jam of the evening came in a funky performance of “Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma.” Miller previewed the song by saying, “You can shake a tail feather to this one,” and the audience certainly did.
After an idyllic rendition of “Winter Time,” which combines tender balladry with heavy rock riffing, Miller took time to address his Rock Hall beef.
He explained that he views the revered institution as a “beacon of music education that needs to spread more light” and induct more women.
“It’s confused right now,” Miller said of the Rock Hall. “If you really care about music and music education, hold these people accountable.”
After clarifying his gripe against the Hall of Fame, Miller thanked his fans for voting for him, and, donning the sparkling blue Fender Stratocaster the was given to him as an induction gift, Miller moved into his most recognizable hit, “The Joker.”
Miller ended the set with “Fly Like An Eagle” and “Rock’n Me,” before returning to the stage with a three song encore of “The Stake,” “Swingtown” and “Jet Airliner.”
“That was awesome,” Larry Joseph, of Mountain Top, said at the set’s end. “I loved it.”
Dean and DeAnna Brown, of Kingston, are long-time Miller fans who were in the crowd to celebrate Dean’s birthday. The couple agreed the Gangster of Love sounds as good as ever.
“He was fantastic,” DeAnna Brown said. “He was everything we thought he would be.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts