Steve Miller, Royal Albert Hall, London


The Joker's still making them smile

Back in the UK for the first time in a quarter of a century, there's no need for Steve Miller to stand on ceremony.

He knows exactly what his audience wants, so as soon as the curtain (literally) drops, he and his band dive into the powerglide pop-rock of "Jet Airliner", instantly reaching cruising speed from a standing take-off, before slipping smoothly into the genial "Take the Money and Run". It's like a masterclass in propelling a concert to maximum momentum with the minimum of fuss, and the abundant good vibes wash out in waves around the Albert Hall.

There's none of the stand-offishness or overweening self-regard that sometimes attends shows by notable blues guitarists of Miller's calibre. Indeed, it's often forgotten that his group started life as the Steve Miller Blues Band, before the "Blues" evaporated in San Francisco's psychedelic sunshine to leave that most attractive of potential Labour leaders, Steve Miller Band. But while most of his peers from the Summer of Love fell quickly by the wayside, Miller managed to extend his career just at the moment when the dream seemed to be over, modernising his original psychedelic blues into a more broadly appealing style with unexpected pop potential. It's this mid-Seventies transformation – paralleling that took him from the self-proclaimed Gangster of Love and Space Cowboy to the midnight-toker character of The Joker – on which his current show is built.

Only a few remnants of that earlier period remain, notably "Space Cowboy" itself – which Miller admits took some remembering once they had decided to name the tour after it – and the anthemic "Living in the USA", with a telling lyric change from "living in a plastic land" to "living in a fantastic land" reflecting his dedication of it to American and British servicemen fighting overseas. Otherwise, the set is fairly equally split between hits like the infectious "Rock N' Me" and "Abracadabra" and the polished R&B covers of his new album, Bingo!, Miller switching guitars frequently as the mood shifts from blues to rock to pop.

The show's good-natured vibe is aided by Miller's backing vocalist Sonny Charles, who at first appears to be a sort of good-time cheerleader, clapping along, nodding approval enthusiastically as Steve peels off another dazzling lick, and exhorting the crowd to get involved with his engaging wobble-legged dance skills. But when he takes lead vocals on sterling covers of Bobby Bland's "Further On Up the Road" and Jesse Hill's "Ooh Poo Pah Doo", it turns out that Sonny can sing the socks off this vintage material, too: later on, one of the show's highlights comes when the two men take the Otis and Carla roles for an irresistibly funky "Tramp".

Not that Miller himself is any slouch vocally. During an acoustic segment featuring songs dedicated to late friends and band members, he essays a moving a cappella version of "Nature Boy" which, he reveals, the late Les Paul ("my godfather") had specifically requested Steve should sing at his funeral. It's another show-stopping moment en route to the expected, and duly delivered, encore of "Fly Like an Eagle", with Miller teasing delicate, echoing runs from his guitar effects board, before "The Joker" sends us on our way, brimful with bonhomie.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk