Music News & Reviews

“Steve Miller — of all people”

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Steve Miller performed at the Barclays Center on April 8 in New York.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Steve Miller performed at the Barclays Center on April 8 in New York. Invision/AP

Steve Miller Band

8 p.m. June 18 at the PNC Pavilion, 6295 Kellogg Ave. Cincinnati. $25-$95. Riverbend.org.

It’s all a little incredulous once you look back at it. When Steve Miller — The Joker, The Space Cowboy, The Gangster of Love or any of the other nom de plumes he adopted in his songs over the past century — was announced as an inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in December, everything seemed swell. As a co-architect of West Coast blues and psychedelia during the late 1960s and a purveyor of radio-savvy pop in the late 1970s, the guitarist, vocalist and bandleader seemed wary but content by the honor.

“I kind of enjoyed having people complain that I wasn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, more than I think I’ll like being in it,” Miller, 72, told Rolling Stone in December 2015. “I’m sure now that I’m in it, I’ll be forgotten about and nobody will have anything to complain about.”

Nobody, that is, except Miller himself. In an especially public display of biting the hand that feeds you, he lashed out at the Hall of Fame over its ceremony practices and treatment of inductees as soon as he became a member.

“Doing this is harder than doing a 20-city tour,” he told Rolling Stone in April.

While his most publicized gripes were with the Hall of Fame, from the lack of diversity among its inductees to its business practices, much of the resentment seemed rooted in the music industry itself.

“This whole industry (expletive) sucks and this little get-together you guys have here is like a private boys’ club, and it’s a bunch of jackasses and jerks and (expletive) gangsters and crooks who’ve (expletive) stolen everything from a (expletive) artist, telling the artist to come out here and tap dance.”

One artist not impressed with the protestations was Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys who, along with bandmate Patrick Carney, inducted Miller into the Hall of Fame. Both have been vocal fans of Miller’s music.

“It was just a real eye-opener for us,” Auerbach said, again to Rolling Stone. “I hope that when I’m in my twilight years, I can look back and be grateful to the people who have appreciated me and be able to give back. Music is about sharing and passing on inspiration and that was his opportunity to do that, not just lashing out in a way that was just completely unfocused.”

Ah, music. This was all supposed to be about music, wasn’t it? Well, it certainly will be when the current lineup of the Steve Miller Band performs Saturday at Cincinnati’s PNC Pavalion. For all the Hall of Fame ruckus, there is a considerably more inviting celebration Miller can champion this summer — specifically, the 40th anniversary of the album that cemented his pop stardom, Book of Dreams.

The commercial profile of Miller and his music grew steadily throughout the ’70s, with the title tunes to his albums The Joker and Fly Like an Eagle becoming rock radio staples in 1973 and 1976, respectively. But Book of Dreams quickly went triple platinum upon its release in 1977 and remains, to many, his most popular recording.

Expect a wealth of material from the album in Cincinnati but, sadly, little of the psychedelic pop that first paved the way to the Hall of Fame 50 years ago. Living in the U.S.A. and Space Cowboy are among the few nods Miller still makes in performance to those formative years. For now, though, it is curious to see a true rock elder fuming with the kind of rebellious vehemence a young upstart band might possess.

That was certainly the take of the New York Times’ Joe Coscarelli in reporting on the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and tagging the one artist of the show with the most outwardly punkish spirit.

“Steve Miller — of all people.”

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