Saturday, July 20, 2013

Steve Miller Band at Meijer Gardens - 7/18/13

Another incredibly hot and muggy evening but we were back, this time with umbrellas to block out the sun while waiting. Highly recommended.

Tonight there was an opening act, but it was a quiet duo and most of the audience did not pay attention. We would have expected a more lively act to come on before the Steve Miller Band. But at 7:45, there they were, starting out with "Jungle Love" and moving through their classic hits while including some lesser known titles such as "Mary Lou" and "Sugar Babe." 
Miller explained early on that when the band was discussing this tour, they wondered how they could make it different. Someone suggested playing music from "The Joker," since this year was its 40th anniversary. Miller quipped that he didn't know those songs any more.  He obviously relearned them and the concert was fantastic.
Seeing that the band formed in 1967, we weren't sure what to expect and hoped it wouldn't be a Beach Boys experience, and it wasn't. The man can still sing and play, and his band consists of top-notch professionals.
Miller sang more than he talked but had a fair amount of humor and fun stories interspersed throughout the concert. At one point while switching positions and guitars, Miller hit his head on his microphone and gave out a Homer Simpson "Doh!" 

He talked about the pedal steel guitar that was rolled out and how expensive and intricate it was. Miller wanted to learn how to play it for this tour from a master, Jeff something. When the guitar arrived and was assembled, he decided that he'd ask Jeff to come along on tour instead so Miller wouldn't have to learn it. It was a funny moment. Jeff looked straight out of the 60s with his suit and narrow tie, but he could play. He later showed his talent again by performing beautifully on a dobro.
The crowd was enthusiastic and at times annoying, standing while all others behind them were sitting but on the whole it was a good balance of concert standing and sitting :) Security was constantly checking people that were holding up their phones too long to be sure it was photos being taken and not video. All in all, it was a fun crowd.
Miller was born in 1943 and the band was formed in 1967. So kudos to him and his band for still being able to put on a good show. There was nothing phoned in about this performance.
So we heard "Abracadabra," "Fly Like an Eagle" and many more hits, and then somewhat abruptly just before 9:30, the band said good night and walked off the stage. Those anxious about parking lot exiting or just naive about concerts picked up their chairs and headed out. We knew it couldn't be the end because we hadn't heard "Space Cowboy" or "The Joker."  Sure enough, they were back and we heard in this order: "Swingtown," "Living in the USA," "Space Cowboy," and the iconic "The Joker." Now they were done. What an encore it was.

Harry Connick, Jr. at Meijer Gardens - 7/17/13

In 90 degree weather, we waited in great anticipation for the concert to begin. Expecting an opening act, we were all pleasantly surprised when Harry walked out on stage, backed by a  large band that included a string section.
Coming from New Orleans, he's used to hot weather. But he still made comments about what he had been experiencing in Michigan and said if he was us, he'd be at home watching ESPN. He also joked about being in Traverse City and not being able to find any cherries, even outside the city.

So the man is a very talented, versatile musician who also has a great sense of humor. And not only does he play piano, trumpet, & percussion, the man can also dance. 

He did a bit of clowning with his band, particularly trombonist, Lucien Barbarin, whose birthday it happened to be. Later Harry passed out birthday cake to a few audience members.
And the very diverse music - wonderfully performed with spot-on precision. Standards, bossa nova, jazz, and more, including two jazzy, soulful versions of the Gospel numbers, "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Just A Closer Walk with Thee." This was a very professional performance and Harry is an incredible showman. 
After a rousing version of "When the Saints Go marching In," it felt like the end or an intermission, but this band went right on playing, over two hours total and more than 20 songs. By 8:15, the sun went behind low lying clouds and we had some heat relief.
Later in the performance Harry shared that he had taken a nap this afternoon and didn't wake up until 6:45pm, 15 minutes before the concert was to begin (which explained the slight delay :) He also said he wanted a one bedroom house here, right under the horse (The huge American Horse at the gardens for you who aren't familiar with Meijer Gardens). Another time, he told a band member to "Go sit under the horse. You're in a time-out." 
And one last Harry joke. He spotted a woman near the stage who was knitting. After teasing her about knitting during this hot weather he zings her with: "Thank you for splitting your time between knitting a sweater vest and watching the show." The man's a genius.
Besides the standards performed that everyone knew and loved ("On a Clear Day, Just the Way You look Tonight...), he also sang "One Fine Thing" from his newest cd,  and it was fine indeed (although I did think he was singing "one fine dame" :-)  Don't miss him if he's back next year, and be aware that you have less than 15 minutes to buy tickets when ticket sales open to members. That's how fast they were gone. Catch him if you can!

Here he is singing One Fine Thing on the Today Show