Gregg Allman, Steve Miller Band
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
It's a challenge for any band with hit songs to tastefully incorporate the "must play" tunes into a set. Tuesday night's PAC double-header demonstrated two approaches.
If you're Gregg Allman, you open up with the crowd-pleasing "It Keeps me Wonderin'" and "I'm No Angel" and then shift into new tunes like, "Tears, Tears, Tears" and the funky, rolling "Floating Bridge." Although Allman used T-Bone Burnett's band when he recorded his latest album, Low Country Blues, the new songs were expertly interpreted by Allman's touring group, highlighted by guitarist Scott Sharrard and percussionist and singer Floyd Miles, a childhood friend of Allman's from Daytona.
"I don't leave home without him," Allman said, before unsuccessfully trying to toss a pick to the audience. "I never could throw those damn things."
For much of the show, Allman relied on lyrics and chords, even losing his place during a take on Jackson Browne's "These Days." The new album's only original, "Just Another Rider," provided a highlight. The songs Allman's is best known for are where he shined the most. "Dreams" was arguably the show's shining moment. After letting the band play an instrumental track, Allman finished up with his first song, "Melissa," on guitar, before a Miles tune, "Back to Daytona," (featuring Allman's only organ solo) and the set closing, "Whipping Post."
"Midnight Rider" never made an appearance, and no one seemed to mind the band skipping a supposed must-play.
Steve Miller, on the other hand, left nothing to be desired among fans hoping for a greatest hits catalog. The band's set up featured a rig oddly void of any onstage monitors or amps. A clean floor left plenty of room for Miller's backing vocalist, former Vegas singer Sonny Charles, to prance around and swim through the air. Charles' goofy, distracting dance moves seemed like a parody right out of a Will Ferrell movie.
Even Joseph Wooten (brother of Victor Wooten) couldn't save the band from super-cheese oblivion, rolling through songs like "Abracadabra" like it was still 1982. Miller's pudgy guitarist/bassist played the rock star in his sequin-studded shirt, tossing his guitar around and strutting across the front of the stage during the first encore, "Jungle Love."
That said, nothing was wrong with Steve Miller's band. Although they lacked a guitar ace like Allman's, they played through a string of hits just as they were recorded decades ago. Unfortunately, for those interested in more than a sing-along with bright colored lights, the show fell short of the expectations promised by Miller's turn at Warren Haynes' Christmas Jam last December in Asheville. When Miller brought out an American flag-adorned Stratocaster and yelled, "I want to be free!" three times during "Fly Like an Eagle," it was almost too much to stomach. And it wasn't too cool when Miller stopped the show to patronize his tech for a "guitar mistake" when his ax (a new one every song) wasn't tuned to drop-D.
Miller is not afraid to hype himself and his tried-and-true setlist. When he introduced the band, he finished with "and I'm the space cowboy." And of course, the show ended with everyone screaming along to "The Joker."
Again, for what it was, there was nothing to complain about. But as someone spoiled on inventive and creative performances, I couldn't help feeling like I'd just taken a cheesy boat cruise from North Charleston to Myrtle Beach.