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Review: Steve Miller holds music education class during Pinewood Bowl performance

Jun 05, 2023

Steve Miller conducted a brief music education class at Pinewood Bowl, first by teaching the 4,000 or so in the Pioneers Park amphitheater the difference between the sound of a Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson Les Paul.

He did so through a story — Les Paul, one of the inventors of the electric guitar and multi-track recording, was his godfather when he grew up in Milwaukee.

“From his records, I learned how to speed things up and slow them down,” Miller said. ”I learned how to sing multi-part harmonies from Mary Ford (Paul’s wife and musical partner).

Later Miller would visit Paul in his New York home, where guitars and often recording equipment were in every room.

“He never gave me one,” Miller said. “He told me ‘you’ve got to earn your own guitar.’ I earned this guitar…now you can hear the difference between it and the Strat.”

The difference in tone, brightness and timbre were immediately evident when the Steve Miller Band kicked into “Jet Airliner” and further provide the contrast, when Miller strapped on the Strat for “Fly Like an Eagle.”

Those two hits came about a third of the way through the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s 90-minute set, that, of course contained pretty much all of his biggest songs and left room to stretch out, as on the eastern-tinged “Wild Mountain Honey.”

“Jet Airliner” figured into the second half of Miller’s class that he conducted solo on acoustic guitar, first playing a couple of his songs from the ‘60s, “Sessions” and “Nothing Lasts,” then showing the evolution of “Jet Airliner” via a singer/songwriter original version at about half the tempo of the hit.

If nothing else, those songs showed that Miller’s still got it at 79, singing and especially on guitar, the latter coming through across the night on the likes of “Living in the U.S.A.”

Production-wise, the show was as old school as it gets — just Miller and the four musicians (none original SMB members) on stage, with no backdrop, video screens and basic lighting.

That was perfect for the illuminating evening of Miller’s enduring songs.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or [email protected]. On Twitter @KentWolgamott

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