Journey, Steve Miller Band co-headlining at Blossom

Few fans go to see classic rockers to hear the new stuff.
MCT Regional News
Jul 3, 2014
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On Tuesday, Blossom Music Center will experience a Bay-area classic rock and soul overload when Journey, the Steve Miller Band and Tower of Power bring a few decades worth of hits and fan favorites to Northeast Ohio.

And none of the bands on the bill have new records.

Journey’s 2011 album — the hard and prog-rock infused Eclipse -— the second to feature newish (six-year member) lead singer Arnel Pineda, peaked at No. 13, but didn’t repeat the surprising success of Pineda’s debut with the band — 2008’s platinum-selling Revelation.

Miller released Let Your Hair Down, an album of blues covers in 2011 and Tower of Power — the Oakland, Calif.-based funk and R&B group whose large horn section is legendary for its tight playing and inventive horn charts — hasn’t released any new tunes since 2003’s solid Oakland Zone.

But few fans go to see classic rockers to hear the new stuff, a simple fact that most veteran bands realize. With the death of the record business model, even veteran artists whose creative juices are still flowing in the studio find that making and releasing new records is a near futile commercial exercise.

“I’m constantly recording and I’ve been in an argument with my record companies and [have filed] lawsuits against them for years,” Steve Miller, 70, said during a conference call with Journey’s Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain. “And giving a record company an album is like giving a gangster your baby or something.

“But, our audiences are so conservative now and so strangely addicted, too. They’ve paid their money; they want to hear the greatest hits,” he continued. “We’ll go out and we’ll be playing in front of 15,000 people and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do three new songs from something we just recorded’ and 5,000 people get up and go get a hot dog and a beer and they don’t come back until they hear the opening strings of The Joker or Fly Like an Eagle.

“That has really bothered me about audiences.”

Miller knows his legend and his continued touring bread and butter are built on the 14 tunes (on CD) from his Greatest Hits 74-78 that include the aforementioned staples plus other hits including Jet Airliner and Jungle Love. While he said he appreciates that those songs have become intertwined with fans’ lives, he still makes records and plays songs for which he wishes listeners would remain in their seats.

“I mean, people are playing music that I recorded 40 years ago on the radio all over the world. I’ve played myself into a box in one way in that … I feel like I have to sneak them [his new material] into my set,” he said. “ I feel like when the critics come to see my show, they go, ‘Well, then they went into this jazz/blues thing for a while and the energy went out of the audience until they came back and played this other song’ so, it’s a very strange kind of world that I occupy.”

Likewise, Cain and Schon said Journey has plenty of new and/or unreleased material but is in no rush to release new music in these “free download” times. But the band, which has 14 studio albums overall, certainly appreciated having a platinum-certified (over 1 million records sold) studio album, in the 21st century in Revelation, and their first since 1996’s Trial by Fire.

“Well, in this day and age for anyone … to sell 100,000 records is very satisfying,” Schon said. “I mean, I’m sure you’re well aware of some major artists, they release new records today and if they sell 60,000 records they go to No. 1 on the charts. And so in the old days, you had to sell gold [500,000 records] to chart or close to it, or 250,000 records.

“… So it was very cool for us to sell platinum on a new record with new songs from Arnel and we’re going to continue putting new stuff out even though the biggest issue for us is with all the [illegal] digital downloads,” he said.

Schon also has a bit of an issue with the rock hall’s induction choices, none of which have included Journey or the Steve Miller Band. Schon is joining a growing groundswell of voices from potential (and in the case of Kiss, recent) inductees who question the rock hall foundation’s moves and motives.

“It’s not a big deal to me,” Schon said. “It’s pretty much politics and that’s just the way it goes, you know.

“… I have no clue what the real deal is, but I mean Steve Miller certainly has a lot of classic hits, too, huge hits, and for him not to be in there they should be ashamed of themselves …”

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By Malcolm X Abram - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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