This Saturday night at the Huntington Center belongs to the old pros.
Steve Miller and Gregg Allman will co-headline a concert at the downtown Toledo arena that brings nearly a century’s worth of combined experience to the stage in a show sure to be stacked with familiar songs.
Seriously, almost 100 years, which doesn’t seem possible until you do the math. The Steve Miller Band formed in 1966; the Allman Brothers Band started recording in 1969 (that’s 87 years) and of course both guys were playing music well before the formation of their bands.
If that makes you feel old, how do you think it affects them?
The good news is that both men are working musicians who regularly record new material, so this won’t be an oldies show by any means. Allman released the critically acclaimed "Low Country Blues" in January and Miller is scheduled to put out the blues-infused "Let Your Hair Down" on Tuesday.
Miller’s musical pedigree is deep. As a little boy growing up in Wisconsin, he was shown a few guitar chords by Les Paul — yes, that Les Paul — who was friends with his father, a pathologist who happened to be a jazz aficionado and amateur recording engineer. The family moved to Texas when Miller was 7 years old and he began forming bands, including one when he was just 12 with Boz Scaggs.
Not satisfied with just being part of the Dallas music scene, Miller made his way to Chicago after leaving college in Wisconsin and hooked up with Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters in what he has described as his "graduate school" of music in the early and mid-’60s.
A series of musical and personal decisions led him to San Francisco in 1967 when Miller — a highly respected guitarist — became an integral part of that scene, melding his blues roots with psychedelia on albums like "Children of the Future," "Sailor," and "Brave New World."
After a serious car accident in the early ’70s, Miller took time off and retooled his sound, focusing more on hooky songs that would play well on pop radio while staying rooted in the blues.
Starting with "The Joker" album in 1973 and the chart-topping title track, Miller kicked off the second phase of his career as a pop/album rock mainstay, combining his business savvy and smarts with an inarguable knack for crafting tight, catchy tunes.
The "Fly Like An Eagle" album in 1976 with its title track, "Take the Money and Run" and "Rock ‘N Me" was a ubiquitous radio staple and it was followed with the even bigger "Book of Dreams" a year later that included "Jet Airliner," "Swingtown," and "Jungle Love."
Combine those songs with earlier tracks like "Living in the U.S.A." along with later tunes such as "Abracadabra" and Miller has a strong body of work in its own right. But he also never stopped playing and recording blues songs and developing as a guitarist.
His 2010 album "Bingo!" featured a number of blues standards that are updated and given his easy charm and from the sounds of "Let Your Hair Down" the new disc also is a tight, swinging homage to the music of his past.
In an online interview, Miller, 67, captured the appeal of his live shows and their emphasis on good-times music: "Everybody who comes to our concerts knows it’s all about joy and fun," he said.
Gregg Allman’s well-told story is a template for the life of a hard-living southern blues man. There’s tragedy, drug addiction and alcoholism, arrests, relationship woes, illness, and redemption, all of which drips from Allman’s gruff, soulful voice when he sings.
Allman came of age with the Allman Brothers Band, the seminal Georgia-based group he formed with his brother Duane. The band, which still tours and plays regularly, is credited with creating southern rock and helping establish the template for jam bands.
With Duane on guitar along with Dickey Betts, two percussionists, bass player Berry Oakley, and Gregg singing and playing organ, the band’s late ’60s and early ’70s albums are masterpieces of blues rock. Gregg Allman’s "Midnight Rider" and "Whipping Post" became concert war horses and rock radio regulars, but the band’s classic lineup was doomed when Duane Allman and Oakley were killed in separate motorcycle accidents.
After his brother’s death in 1971, Allman began his solo career with "Laid Back" and he would return to it on and off over the years while still playing with the Allman Brothers Band. His solo work has always been more eclectic than the band’s music, with forays into soul and pop.
Allman’s battles with drugs and alcohol have been legendary — along with his six marriages, including a tempestuous few weeks married to Cher — and last year he received a liver transplant after battling hepatitis C for several years.
He’s been maintaining a fairly high profile lately, fronting the Allmans for a re-creation of their legendary 1971 Fillmore East concert recently in New York and making his critically acclaimed solo album with T-Bone Burnett producing.
The album features Allman, 63, digging deep into his country blues roots on a disc that includes only one original song.
Miller and Allman are playing the show as co-headliners so expect three and a half hours of music instead of the usual short set by an opener. Show time is at 7:30 p.m. at the Huntington Center, 500 Jefferson St. in downtown Toledo. Tickets are $57.50, $47.50, and $37.50 and are available at the Huntington Center box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, www.ticketmaster.com, and by phone at 800-745-3000.
Contact Rod Lockwood at: email@example.com or 419-724-6159.
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