The Lost Review: Opening the Book of Dreams — An Evening with The Steve Miller Band and Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives
Disclaimer: Although I write more poetry these days, I spent numerous years regularly contributing words and photography to music publications at the local and national level. This combination of reviewing concerts and spending time with musicians is/was a crowning jewel of my life. Last July, I had the honor of reviewing and photographing Steve Miller — one of my favorite musicians. Being led to the soundboard with my camera equipment was a moment I will never forget. Going in, the plan was to write this piece for a New England based entertainment magazine. Sadly, the publication found itself on life support and by the time I had finished writing, had taken its last breath. Since then, I have tenderly held onto this article as a child does a stuffed animal. I have spent considerable time wondering what to do with a now-irrelevant piece that continues to hold so much meaning for me. But this bizarre time in living history has me thinking: we don’t last forever, and that evening has disappeared, evaporated into thin air— never to return again in the same capacity. I, however, was fortunate enough to be able to capture it in my time capsule. Therefore, it is only right for me to set it free into the world like the Pegasus in flight. From my archives to your eyes, I give you my lost review. Thank you to Steve Miller and to everyone in his camp who helped me to open my Book of Dreams by making this opportunity possible.
Opening the Book of Dreams
An Evening with The Steve Miller Band and Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives
by Julia R. DeStefano, written in August 2019
One is a legend of classic rock — the other, classic country.
One speaks on the pompatus of love — the other, on a little thing called the Hillbilly Rock.
(Listen: Marty Stuart, “Hillbilly Rock” https://youtu.be/CtLn4S2agwc)
The “Classic Rock meets Classic Country” tour rode into the Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion on July 25, 2019. Billed as a “meeting” of two genres, the evening was an example of unparalleled musicianship from The Steve Miller Band and Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives.
Stuart opened the show. He and his band were a well oiled machine with heart, soul, and a dash of humor.
The response from the crowd was undeservedly lackluster, either due to an early set time or unfamiliarity and under-appreciation of the genre. Stuart recognized this. It only fueled his determination and drive over the course of the 70-minute set.
Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives’ impeccable skills did not go unnoticed. They blazed through Stuart originals (“Tempted,” “The Whiskey Ain’t Working”), dove headlong into instrumental surf rock, and offered a hearty selection of time-honored country mainstays.
It was impossible to keep a dry eye during “Six White Horses,” Tommy Cash’s lament of lives lost. Stuart’s baritone reverberated through the Pavilion: Some folks laugh and some folks frown. Some folks here that’ll gun you down / Goodbye, John / six white horses come to take you home / Goodbye, John / took you away before you sang your song.
(Listen: Tommy Cash “Six White Horses” https://youtu.be/NNTj9-iH2zE)
Later, each Superlative would showcase — from drummer Harry Stinson’s vocal range on Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd,” to upright bassist Chris Scruggs’ rendition of Bob Wills’ “Brain Cloudy Blues.”
Guitarist Cousin Kenny Vaughan’s “Hot Like That” and “Country Music Got a Hold on Me” were barn-burners with riffs that threatened to ignite the venue.
(Listen: Kenny Vaughan “Hot Like That”: https://youtu.be/UzTsrYaky3k)
But it was a newer single, “Time Don’t Wait” that would have the audience Googling Stuart’s name. Because nothing in the world can stop the movement of time, the song — complete with rousing on-screen video — shouted Live! It would set the tone for the remainder of the evening.
(Listen: Marty Stuart “Time Don’t Wait” (https://youtu.be/IS7xPPcR4Bc)
Steve Miller Band took the stage at 9pm, opening with “The Stake” before flowing into the carnal “Jungle Love” and “Abracadabra.” Miller — 75 years young — sounded better than the recordings from the ‘70s.
(Listen: The Steve Miller Band “The Stake” https://youtu.be/gjF5Ztrmi5M)
The starlit set and colorful lighting provided tasteful nods to the band’s psychedelic style without feeling flashy or overdone.
Equally impressive was Miller’s infectious energy. He smiled ear-to-ear throughout a carefully designed set of fan favorites that spanned the ’60s to ’80s (“Living in the USA,” “Take the Money and Run”).
The original Space Cowboy knew that the crowd had come to dance, dance, dance. He did not hesitate to deliver. Even the cover of Jimmy Reed’s “I Wanna Be Loved (But By Only You) saw concertgoers two-stepping in the aisles.
Midway through the set, Miller welcomed Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives for three songs. In an intimate storytelling moment, Miller discussed the parallel of their careers — sharing the connections between rock ’n’ roll, country music, and the blues.
Stuart, on mandolin, joined Miller and band for deeper cuts “The Lovin’ Cup,” “Going to the Country,” and “Dance, Dance, Dance.”
In interviews leading up to the tour, Miller had remarked of how “special” the combination of he and Marty Stuart are — going on to explain how this tour is something he had been working on for years. As the two artists crooned, picked, exchanged anecdotes, and laughed — the significance of the pairing became apparent, as did its intensely personal meaning to Miller.
As the evening went on, Miller would treat the crowd to dreamy “Wild Mountain Honey” but not without explaining the origins of his beloved sitar-guitar -
and although the smooth rocker “True Fine Love” was unexpectedly pulled from the set list, Miller replaced it with a cover of Little Walter’s “Blues With a Feeling.” The rendition had so much grit and yes, feeling, that the crowd couldn’t gripe at all over the swap.
Miller also treated Boston to “Serenade.” The resounding Wake up and look around you / we’re lost in space enveloped the crowd in a hallucinatory state, readying them for the epic “Fly Like An Eagle.”
The interplay between Miller and keyboardist Joseph Wooten brought instrumentation to a new level, evoking The Grateful Dead -
while “Rock ’n’ Me” saw the crowd engaged in sing-along.
The biggest moments arrived during the three-song encore of “Swingtown,” “The Joker,” and “Jet Airliner.”
For a show rooted in classics, the challenge lies in finding that sweet spot between giving the audience what they came for, and transforming the hits just enough to keep them relevant.
A lesser band would falter — unable to rise to the occasion — but not The Steve Miller Band, whose innovative approach captures fans of every generation.
Though not the most obvious of pairings, Marty Stuart and Steve Miller are two musical legends committed to crowd-pleasing performances while remaining true to the creative spirit.
© Julia R. DeStefano