Classic rock is back with a bang

Justin Rodstrom

By Justin Rodstrom

Staff Reporter

Classic rock, a long-coveted genre of music, has never ceased to entertain me. I recently got the chance to witness two of the greatest performances of this kind in two distinct and equally appealing venues.

Steve Miller Band at

Caesar’s Palace

Last Sunday, I was afforded the opportunity to see ’70s rock standard the Steve Miller Band at the intimate 1,600-person Circus Maximus theatre at Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City, N.J. With a set which was nothing short of classic, Steve Miller and the boys treated fans to a blues-rock trip back to the era of overdriven wah guitar, congo drums and aural synth keyboards. It included classics “Fly Like An Eagle,” “The Joker” and “Keep Rockin’ Me” in his classic cool style. Steve Miller even made a stab at the Robert Johnson classic “Crossroads.” After a raucous first set, the encore was capped off with an all-requests jam session.

Truly the working man’s Aerosmith, Steve Miller Band focused and aimed to please its eager fans. The Steve Miller Band has become one of those blue-collar pub bands that had a string of catchy pop tunes and made it big. It doesn’t have the epic guitar or transcendental keyboards, but it odes have pleasing hooks and its own stripped-down style. In a world of flashier classic rock titans, likes of Zeppelin or Floyd, it’s good to root for the underdog every once in a while.

Elvis Costello and the Mann Festival Orchestra at the Mann Center

I came into these tickets unsure of what to expect – I was perennially familiar with the work of Costello and was treading on somewhat unfamiliar ground with this “classical” pairing. After missing the first set due to technical difficulties (cursed Mapquest!), I made it just in time for the second set of down-tempo, vocals-oriented jazz accompanied by classical flairs. Costello and classical composer Steve Nieve re-worked the instrumentally sparse, punk-rock styling’s of the Costello catalogue into an orchestral environment with great success. Classics like “Veronica,” “Watching The Detectives” and “God Give Me Strength” were masterfully arranged to include a full orchestra, including a generous string section, sparse percussion and ample brass and woodwind.

Not only did the classical Costello performance turn me on to the work of Costello, but it also gave me a deeper appreciation for the dramatic world of orchestral music. Although the environment was quite a bit stuffier than the marijuana-soaked rock shows I so dearly love, there is something special about classical concerts, something in the drama that cannot be recreated at a rock show. Now, I’m no renaissance man; this is no renouncement of my love for rock and roll, but as a music lover chiefly, I have to say classical concerts are unique and rewarding if you just give them a chance.