The Steve Miller Band (Bluesfest London 2018)

Thursday 25th October 2018

The O2 Arena, London, United Kingdom

Supplied By Event Organiser

Returning once again at The O2 Arena in Greenwich, London, United Kingdom the annual Bluesfest kicked off the four-night run of shows on a Thursday during the October Half-Term. Normally this would probably not be an issue but it was this week that the RMT (South Western Railway) decided to conduct strike action this very week essentially making travel to the festival a nightmare filled with delays and cancellations. I’m fully aware that this is not the fault of the event organisers, venue or performing artists but it didn’t half make it difficult to get to Bluesfest.

On arrival to the venue I was prepared for lengthy queues and security checks just like previous years which resulted in me missing some of the acts on earlier in the evening. The Steve Miller Band was on the bill for their only UK performance of 2018 with a scheduled start time of 7.25pm so time was of the essence.

Increased security at public events with a large attendance is always important and a necessary evil and is primarily to maintain a safe and secure environment for all parties involved. However, the staff at The O2 seem to have the attitude that everyone is carrying prohibited items and up to no good as they pat you down without saying a word. Nobody smiled at me, nobody said hello or asked me how I was or enquired if I was looking forward to my evening. It was a get in and get out scenario.

Having been checked at the entrance and with the ticket scanned I went up the escalator to be greeted with hats priced at £25 each, t-shirts at £30 and bottled water at £3.00 each (without the lid of course.)

Once I was seated I realised that although I was situated on level one in the arena and did have a slightly better view then some others around me it was clear that I would still have to crane my neck so that I would be able to watch one of the screens.
Arriving promptly onstage, Steve Miller appeared in glasses and a suit and looked like he was about to give a religious sermon whilst his fellow bandmates approached their instruments (bass, drums, keyboards and an electric guitarist).
Opening with ‘The Stake’ from the 1977 ‘Book Of Dreams’ he had the crowd in his hands straight away. However, it seemed to go slightly awry when he shouted “Are you ready to have a little fun? Here’s some magic for you!” and went into what sounded like a reworked ‘Abracadabra’ as the drummer played at pace to gallop to the end of the song. A classic rock number that for me seemed to lack bite on this occasion.

Miller was fully aware that he was at an event which was called Bluesfest even if the festival itself wasn’t (the lineup includes Zac Brown Band and Counting Crows both of which aren’t exactly known for their blues music…) and told us tales of his friendship with the late Otis Rush that preceded Rush’s “All Your Love (I Miss Loving)”. The drums sounded a lot like the Fleetwood Mac track ‘Black Magic Woman’ though. Credit to Steve Miller for bringing some blues music to the masses with his respectful tribute.

The audience cheered with delight at the beginning of ‘Space Cowboy’ and the surprise addition of ‘Kow Kow Calqulator’ which was originally recorded at Olympic Studios in London and featured Nicky Hopkins.

Joseph Wooten provided a groovy keyboard solo on ‘Take The Money And Run’ before the powerful ‘Make The World Turn Around’ written in the Eighties when the Berlin Wall was still standing. Listening to the lyrics it is a song which has a strong meaning even in 2018.

‘Wild Mountain Honey’ saw Miller play a 19-stringed sitar-guitar which he bought in 1965 for $150 dollars and it had a beautiful tone. Unfortunately, as he told us about the instrument and show it to us all in great detail it didn’t work in a room of this size and I suspect it might have been completed missed by people on the higher levels.

Then we got a slew of hits in the shape of ‘Fly Like An Eagle’, ‘Rock ’n Me’ and the instantly recognizable ‘The Joker’ which was a triumph with the electric slide guitar and a song that I have always wanted to see him perform live. It was a shame about the omission of The Tubes-esque ‘Macho City’ though.

The final song was Jet Airliner’ which was written by Paul Pena in 1973 and the crowd seemed extremely satisfied as his set drew to a close at 8.55pm. No time for an encore though as John Fogerty was appearing shortly after with a set of Creedence Clearwater Revival Greatest Hits set. Unfortunately, due to the train issues throughout the day and evening I had to make tracks to try and get home so I missed Fogerty.

In conclusion, I’m grateful that I did finally get to see the Steve Miller Band in action but I wish it had taken place at a smaller venue like the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith or the beautiful Royal Albert Hall. As I exited the arena a steward asked “Are you leaving yeah?” so that he could enforce The O2’s no re-admission policy and when I confirmed that I was he let me walk through.

At this show I didn’t feel like I was being treated like a live music fan but just a consumer and all they want is for me to purchase expensive drink and merchandise and then leave – just a walking pound sign. I haven’t felt so unwelcomed at a gig in a really long time and I really didn’t appreciate it.

If Bluesfest returns I really hope that they think about reinstating the free daytime stages and stop putting on three acts a night as it means that the show will end later which does not make it a commuter-friendly festival. Finally, having paid full price for tickets early on to avoid disappointment imagine my anger when I get emails from Ticketmaster et al offering me 2-4-1 and 50% off tickets offers which essentially penalizes people who bought tickets early at the full price.

Glenn Sargeant



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Feature Image Photo: Supplied By Event Organiser

You can read our interview with Leo Green (Bluesfest Festival Director) here: http://bit.ly/2PeH66W

For more information visit the official website here: http://bit.ly/2xoTQzD