Written by Jim Bille
Sep 30, 2006 at 06:00 PM
Jonny Lang Opens for Steve Miller Band.Steve Miller Band

The Steve Miller Band took the stage at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in the Woodlands around 8:45 Saturday night and opened the show with one of his ka-zillion hits “Swing Town”. This song was the beginning of what I expected to hear and what the brainwashed packed pavilion wanted to hear.
Knowing full well that Steve Miller, who is noted for most of the 70’s and 80’s limp soft rock songs made, had to play these all time greatest hits…. I settled in and let the show unfold. What else would he or could he play? Not to say his fluffy hits are so bad, most of them I actually liked the first 30,000 times I heard them. But after the 30,001 time I started to sense some sort of brainwashing effect taking place. Kind of the same brainwashing effect people realize after listening to too much Doobie Brothers or Bob Seeger music over and over. A classic rock radio brainwashing. The kind of musical cranium cleansing that big time corporate radio stations can do to you because of their limited and strict play list guidelines. Sometimes you get Bad Company and sometimes you get Steve Miller, and then we start it all over again with the Doobie Brothers and so on.

Steve Miller seems to be living and performing comfortably with his current classic rock radio and past success and appeared quite happy in giving the crowd that old time sappy feeling with that old time sappy re-chewed music. Without going through the complete play list I can tell you he played all of them for the happy and mostly well behaved and partially inebriated crowd.

OK, enough of that, now for the good stuff.

Miller, perhaps tiring of playing his ‘same ol’, ‘same ol’, decided to do a set dedicated strictly to the blues. He asked Johnny Lang to join the band on stage to help out and proceeded to try and school the perplexed crowd on some traditional blues standards by T-bone Walker, Elmore James, Mike Bloomfield and others. The set included T-Bone Walker’s ‘Tell Me What’s the Reason’, Bobby Blue Bland’s ‘Further On Up The Road’, and Mike Bloomfield’s ‘I Just Got Back From Texas’. Long time San Francisco Bay Area harp player, Norton Buffalo, was on hand to really cook things up on ‘Got Love If You Want It’.

Miller showed some guitar flash of old when he played a mean slide solo on Elmore James’s classic ‘Stranger Blues’. He appeared to enjoy what he was hearing from his crack band during this set, and with the help of Lang the group hammered out some great sounds and great music.

Steve Miller’s earlier recorded offerings quite often included many blues tinged tunes. Most of his recordings up to and including ‘The Joker’ always had a touch of the blues unlike his most popular material.

This set was well received by the crowd, but Miller, knowing that the fans wouldn’t tolerate too much of a good music education slipped back into his radio groove with ‘Fly like an Eagle’ and had them on their feet again. For me I was left wanting to hear something else from a guy who has recorded much better material in his earlier days. Listen to “Steve Miller 5”, and you’ll know what I mean.

All things considered it was a good show.  Steve Miller played to the crowd like a great showman and performer does and genuinely appreciated his loving fans as they did him. Highlights of the show can be heard anytime, on any Classic Rock Radio station. Tune in.

Jonny Lang

Johnny Lang has had his chops going since he was little kid. He is only 20 something now, and has already played with more guitar gods then anyone could count and is well respected by each. His fans include Buddy Guy, BB King, Eric Clapton and Steve Miller.

I’m not sure what kind of musical exposure Johnny Lang had growing up in North Dakota, but whatever it was it spurred him on to become possibly the very best of the next generation of blues guitarists.  He started playing at the age of 12 with a local Fargo North Dakota band called ‘Bad Medicine Blues Band’, but it wasn’t long before the band changed its name to ‘Kid Johnny Lang and Big Bang’ and moved to Minneapolis.

In Minneapolis the band released a locally produced and distributed album called ‘Smokin’,and Kid Johnny was on his way. Not long after releasing ‘Smokin’, A&M records caught wind of the prodigy and signed him up. His next recording was ‘Lie to Me’, followed by ‘Wander the World’.

He came to the Woodlands last Saturday night as one of the opening acts for one of his fans, Steve Miller, and bombarded the crowd with his brand of soulful blues that has been steadily gaining fan momentum for the young guitar wizard. His axe slammin’ show was loud, aggressive, and unfortunately, ended all too soon. He was only scheduled for a one-hour set and that is exactly what the crowd got.  I’m sure he would have played longer but show scheduling and timing constraints took precedence over an extension of Johnny’s blistering performance.

He is touring now in promotion of his latest release entitled ‘Turn Around’, which employs a strong gospel influence. Using this style, Lang seems to reach really deep for inspiration and the songs he played this night from his new recording reflected this. Gut feeling soulful tunes from the new CD performed included Bump in the Road and Thankful. A couple of other musical gems Lang banged out were ‘Lie to Me’ and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living for City’.

This guy can smoke the house with some of the best blues riffs to be heard and then settle into a soulful side that could make the best of Motown envious. He is completely antimated with some of the best facial contortions that I’ve ever seen. He has a stage presence that demands and gets your attention with incredible and precise guitar playing not often heard by younger or older more seasoned guitarists.

The show was close to perfect .

Delbert McClinton

If you know music and you here the name Delbert only one person comes to mind. Delbert McClinton. If you know Delbert’s music than you know about the best blue-eyed blues singer to ever come out of Texas. Delbert has been around a long time singing, his bluesie soulful brand of tunes and has come to be recognized as the one best on the road today.

Way back when, he started out with a band called “The Straightjackets’ playing at the Skyliner Ballroom in Ft. Worth and backing up such blue’s greats as Sonny Boy Williamson, Lighnin’ Hopkins, Howlin Wolf and Jimmy Reed.

In 1962 he traveled to the UK touring with Bruce Channel and advised a young John Lennon on some harmonica techniques, which Lennon later used on the Beatles recording of ‘Love Me Do’ and other early Fab Four recordings.

He has recently received his third Grammy award for his most recent release “Room To Breathe” to sit on the shelf beside his previous two. The Grammy was for “Best Traditional Blues Album” as was his last award for the 2001 release ‘Nothing Personal’.

McClinton’s roadhouse show last Saturday was classic Delbert, his vocals and harp playing sound better with each performance I see. His playlist covered songs and the sounds that have made him so popular for the past four decades. As always, McClinton had one of the best sounding 6 piece bands around to back him up. His vocals and harp playing still stand up to and above anyone else’s in the business.
His only Top 40 hit, ‘Givin it up for Love’ was the crowd’s final treat from McClinton as he left the stage far too early, after playing for only one hour.

Delbert McClinton is a real deal Texas R&B crusader who delivers a musical shot in the arm to all.

A must see show.