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Music Review: Steve Miller Band: Live from Chicago (CD/DVD)

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This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of The Steve Miller Band's first two albums (Children of the Future and Sailor). To commemorate their anniversary, Coming Home Media will release Live From Chicago, the Steve Miller Band’s first-ever DVD.

The set contains two DVDs and a CD. The first DVD is footage from The Steve Miller Band's July 2007 concert at Chicago's Ravinia Festival. The second DVD contains a documentary about the band, featuring exclusive photos from Miller's personal collection. The 12-song CD is a compilation of The Steve Miller Band's favorite live songs from the Chicago concert.

The Steve Miller Band began the concert with "Fly Like an Eagle." A new twist in this song is that Joseph Wooten (keyboard and vocals) adds a little freestyle rap in the middle.   Typically, I prefer songs at concerts to be performed the way I'm used to hearing them.   I did, however, enjoy this new sound.

"Jungle Love," "The Joker," and "Jet Airliner" were played true to their originial format.  These are timeless classics of The Steve Miller Band. 

Norton Buffalo (harmonica and vocals) is described as Steve's "partner in harmony for 31 years." The remaining band members are Gordy Knudtson (drums), Billy Peterson (bass) and Kenny Lee Lewis (guitar and vocals).

The footage of the concert and the material itself made me regret not having attended.  The audience wore their love for Steve Miller on their sleeves.  It appeared that people across multiple generations knew the words to all their songs and had a fantastic evening.

In the documentary, Miller talks about the way Chicago has changed since the '60's and he walks the audience through his old hometown. The documentary is filmed such that it appears Miller is speaking directly to the viewer. Multiple photos from his own collection allow us into his personal memoirs. In addition, there are interviews from people camped out on the lawn in Chicago singing his songs and boasting of their love for The Steve Miller Band. It is heartwarming footage with some very funny clips of his ardent fans.

Steve Miller has kept a low media profile over his four decade career.  Therefore, the documentary gives the audience some insight into his love of blues and his musical history.  Some of the lesser known historical information on Miller follows.

Steve Miller was born on October 5, 1943 in Milwaukee, WI. He grew up in a home frequented by musicians. Les Paul was the best man at his parents' wedding and taught Steve his first guitar chords. When the Miller family moved to Dallas, T-Bone Walker became a frequent visitor. Miller formed his first band at age 12 with friend Boz Scaggs. 

He left college to move to Chicago in 1964, giving up his dream to be a creative writing instructor. In the documentary, Steve reminisces about Chicago in the mid 1960's. "It was like getting a Masters and a Ph.D. in Bluesology." He paints an informative picture about the history of the Blues scene in Chicago and the major players at Big John's, the best club in which to play. He also takes the audience to places he used to haunt, and the expression of loss in his face when the building is no longer standing is heart-wrenching.

He moved to San Francisco in 1966 after Big John's was shut down by police, and the rest is rock and roll history.

The band has sold 25 million records.  To name a few, in 1973, they produced The Joker which is now a certified Platinum album.  In 1976, The Steve Miller Band generated Fly Like An Eagle, which is currently a quadruple Platinum album. This album featured "Rockin' Me."  Book of Dreams was released in 1977 and is now triple Platinum. In 1978 they produced Greatest Hits: 1974-78 which is certified 13 x Platinum. 

Like slipping on a bathrobe straight from the dryer, the warmth and familiarity of the concert took me back to my youth when I knew all the words to every song played. The well-known sounds and the heartening rhythm is what makes The Steve Miller Band a timeless treasure.

Miller received the ASCAP Golden Note Award at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers' 25th Annual Pop Music Awards in April of 2008. The Steve Miller Band will also begin touring May 24th in West Palm Beach, Florida. Joe Cocker will be a special guest on the tour.

Coming Home Media presents the concert in 5.1 Surround Sound and state-of-the-art high definition. The concert DVD will be used by PBS as part of their June 2008 pledge drive.

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