Gerald Johnson - bass; John King - drums; Steve Miller - lead vocals, guitars, harmonica; Dickie Thompson - keyboards
Few groups that established themselves in the 1960s survived the transition into the 1970s better than the Steve Miller Band. Like many of the San Francisco bands, they were initially a young blues band that developed into one of the pioneers of the psychedelic rock scene, releasing increasingly adventurous albums and becoming a favorite at Fillmores East and West, as well as rock clubs throughout America. Following numerous personnel and stylistic changes between 1966 and 1972, Steve Miller finally hit big in 1973 with his eighth album, The Joker, which marked yet another significant change for the group. Gone were the psychedelic explorations and lengthy blues jams of the past, and in their place was a more melodic, smooth rock sound. Past influences, the blues in particular, were still part of the group's flavor, but Miller was now playing more acoustic guitar, and the songs were often pared down to essential elements. This new approach caught the attention of radio and gave Miller his first solid commercial success, due in no small part to the extensive radio play of the title track.
This remarkable Steve Miller Band performance, recorded at San Francisco's Winterland, was a homecoming for the band. They had just returned from an extensive tour, performing before some of their largest audiences to date as they rode the crest of success of The Joker album. The second of two nights headlining a bill that had the Climax Blues Band and ZZ Top as openers, this performance contains superb live performances of most of their recent breakthrough album, as well as many vintage classics and a preview of the things to come. The layout of this lengthy performance was divided into three parts, beginning with a ten-song electric set. (Listen to Part 1 for the first 10 electric songs of this night's performance.) During the middle of the show, Miller treats the hometown crowd to an intimate acoustic set, followed by a high-energy return to electric instrumentation to close the show.
Following the initial electric portion of the show, things get more intimate as Miller pulls up a chair and sits down for an acoustic performance. This was not uncommon during this era, but on this night the audience is particularly attentive and Miller responds with an extended acoustic sequence containing a remarkable selection of songs. This begins with the ever-popular "Kow Kow" from 1969's Brave New World, followed by a quick run through of the title song from the 1971 album, Rock Love. The blues classic "Come On In My Kitchen" follows. Returning to the Brave New World album, Miller next delivers a lovely reading of "Seasons," one of his most beautiful songs. A double dose from the 1970 album, Number 5 is next, first with the bouncy "Going To Mexico" and a rare performance of "I Love You." The most surprising selection of the entire show follows, as Miller ventures way back to his 1968 album, Sailor and treats the audience to "Dear Mary." He then caps off the acoustic portion of the show with the infectious title song from "The Joker."
To bring the show to a high-energy close, they return to full electric instrumentation. The group's cover of Charles Calhoun's "Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash" certainly kicks things up a notch, and, with the popularity of The Joker album, is now immediately recognized by the audience who roar their approval. Miller concludes the set by first soaring around on "The Star Spangled Banner," which leads into a monumental version of "Living In The U.S.A." Originally an underground anthem, circa 1968, when it was clearly aimed at social injustice and the administration sending America's youth off to fight in a senseless war in Vietnam, this is the song that initially established the group, and it's easy to see why. Catchy riffs, a memorable chorus, and superb jamming from the entire band make this a most memorable performance, leaving the audience roaring for an encore.
The group obliges with another 15 minutes that brings the house down. First up is a powerful performance of The Joker track, "Sha Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma," which features remarkably tight ensemble playing from the rhythm section of Gerald Johnson and John King and undeniably infectious organ from Dickie Thompson. They close the show appropriately enough, with "So Long Blues," another non-album track, which brings the show full circle and provides a memorable ending to an impressive performance.