Live photo and review by George A. Paul; backstage photo by Ron Lyon
On Friday night, the Steve Miller Band played a sold out benefit show for the Fender Center/Kids Rock Free music education program.
KLOS-FM/Los Angeles deejays Uncle Joe Benson and Cynthia Fox were both on hand to serve as emcees for the event. Plenty of money for the worthy cause was raised via admissions, donations and a music memorabilia auction (one unique electric guitar designed like an early Miller album cover went for $5000).
Early VIP arrivals were treated to soothing music by classical guitarist - and Fender Center staffer - Lee Zimmer. The Fender Benders, comprised of teen musicians from the Kids Rock Free program, was the opening act. They played impressive rock covers by Journey, Heart and Pat Benatar.
The concert ran for more than two hours and was packed with plenty of classic rock radio staples, including a major chunk of best seller "Fly Like an Eagle" and ample R&B/blues covers (Bobby "Blue" Bland, Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, Jimmie Vaughn) - several of which are heard on new studio album "Bingo!"
In a brief interview beforehand, Miller told me it was a blast recording two albums' worth of covers that he used to play while growing up in Texas. Miller also said he initially approached the record company about putting them all out on a box set alongside the original versions (which still could happen). The follow up to "Bingo!" is due in 2011.
Miller and his band were tight as ever onstage, led by the singer/guitarist's sizzling fretwork and still honeyed singing. All the songs included smooth backing vocals from former '60s soul vocalist Sonny Charles (ex-Checkmates), a fairly recent addition to the touring band, who is also quite the dancer.
Toward the latter part of the set, Miller espoused the virtues of Kids Rock Free, future nationwide expansion plans and new coordinating efforts with Jens Moe of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. Miller was presented with an official plaque by Corona City Councilman Eugene Montanez proclaiming it Steve Miller Week in the IE city. The Fender Center's outdoor stage - previous host to concerts by Paul Rodgers and many others over the years - was rechristened the Steve Miller TLC Amphitheatre.
Several teenage KRF guitarists joined the Miller Band on "Rockin' Me," "Fly Like an Eagle," "Swingtown," "Space Cowboy" and "Jungle Love."
Setlist: Jet Airliner/Take the Money and Run/Mercury Blues/Hey Yeah/Come On Let the Good Times Roll/Blues Without Blame/Further on Up the Road/Can't Be Satisfied/Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma/Seasons/Wild Mountain Honey/Dance Dance Dance/The Joker/Abracadabra/Ooh Poo Pah Doo/Tramp/Don't Cha Know/Serenade/The Stake/Living in the USA/Rockin' Me/Fly Like an Eagle/Swingtown/Space Cowboy/Jungle Love
Thanks to Lauren Mele, Paki Newell and Jean Sievers for their help with the review.