The Steve Miller Band wrapped up an extended summer tour, one which saw them play close to 50 dates around the country between April and October, with a nearly sold-out show at the Orpheum Theater in Boston.
The band launched into the opening riff of “Jet Airliner” while the stage was still obscured behind a floor-to-ceiling curtain emblazoned with the immortal “Space Cowboy” moniker Miller had adopted some 40 years ago. The shroud fell away to reveal the 68-year-old guitarist, a little grey around the temples, and a five-member backing band, playing in front of a colorful backdrop of swirling guitars that swooped and looped from the floor to stage lights and back again.
Miller had no problem treating his predominantly Baby Boomer audience to the classics, following “Jet Airliner” with two other favorites, “Take the Money and Run” and “Abracadabra.” Miller did not rush through these hits, the way some bands will, but treated them as the gems they are, weighing in on guitar with gusto, trading licks with fellow guitarist Jacob Petersen and bassist Kenny Lee Lewis.
Although Miller is probably most closely identified with the trio of mega- albums he reeled off in the mid-70s, launching hit after rock hit onto the FM airwaves, he had actually earned his chops as a first-rate blues guitarist a good decade earlier. And when he returned to the blues at the Orpheum on Friday – on songs such as “Nobody Loves You” and “I Want to Make the World Turn Around” – he showed that he has lost nary a step. Miller’s voice, too, remains in fine form, little worse for the wear of close to 50 years on the road. He was helped out by longtime R&B man Sonny Charles on backing vocals – and one of the highlights of the evening was when Charles took lead vocal on the blues standard “Further on Up the Road.”
The Orpheum is such an intimate setting that at times it felt as if we were all in one big rec room from the ‘70s – complete with marijuana haze – and Miller appeared to be having a ball, recalling past Boston shows at various venues dating back to the legendary Tea Party club on Lansdowne Street. And the hits kept coming: “Fly Like an Eagle,” with a superb organ solo by keyboardist Joseph Wooten, “Wild Mountain Honey,” with some Norwegian Wood-like interplay between Miller and Petersen, followed by “Dance Dance Dance” and “Keep on Rockin’ Me Baby” to close out the regular set. In lieu of an encore, the band simply remained on the stage as Miller repeatedly promised “just one more” – before treating the crowd to “Jungle Love,” “Space Cowboy” and, of course, “The Joker.”