Steve Miller Band
Peter Frampton

August 9, 2017
Pacific Amphitheatre
Costa Mesa, CA

Review & Photos by Ron Lyon

Long before the warm summer sun set on the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa, Peter Frampton took the stage and began an hour and a half long set of classic hits coupled with some really refreshing blues guitar. Nearing the end of a 32-city tour with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steve Miller, Frampton came out and immediately connected with the pumped and primed crowd.

The anticipation to see this show was evident from ticket sales, the early arrivals in the amphitheater, and ultimately, the stars of the night themselves. Both Frampton and Miller were quick to note their mutual admiration in pre-tour comments.

"Steve Miller was in a recording studio vocal booth stacking incredible harmonies the first time we met in London, circa 1970," Frampton has said. "From that moment on, I have been a huge admirer of his multiple talents: singing, writing and, of course, his amazing guitar playing. Steve has already asked if I will come and jam on a few tunes during his set. 'Yes, please!' was my very quick answer."

Miller added: "He always sets the musical bar high, his band always knocks me out, and I'm thrilled we are going to spend the summer together doing a great run of concerts. This is the kind of quality and talent we both strive to present, and I'm looking forward to a summer of great music, exceptional performances and fun. Peter is a remarkable musician."

Frampton kicked off the show with "Something's Happening," from the 1974 album of the same name (and the opening song on the iconic Frampton Comes Alive). Playing his wine-red Gibson ES-335 in front of three Marshall stacks, he showcased his affinity for the Gibson sound. Frampton rolled out his newest single "I Saved A Bird," a flamenco-flavored acoustic number inspired by his rescue of a bird and his success in rehabbing the winged creature.

A mostly instrumental version of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" was dedicated to the family of Chris Cornell. Frampton told the story of recording this song with Pearl Jam, and mentioned how much the death of Cornell affected him. Images of Cornell popped up on the screens as Frampton worked the talk box with otherworldly effect. A lengthy standing ovation for both artists was both welcome and fitting.

There was a quick story about how bumping into Alvin Lee at Steve Marriott's house in England inspired "Show Me The Way," with the first verse and chorus completed in 20 minutes. Frampton added that "(Baby) I Love Your Way" was written the same day.

Frampton also talked about his black 1954 Les Paul Custom, which was lost in a plane crash. He reveled in describing the lonesome journey of the burned and broken instrument, how he connected with the rescuer, how Gibson restored the guitar, and after 32 years, he got back the single most important piece of his musical life. Of course, the first song he played on it was "Do You Feel Like We Do" from 1973's Frampton's Camel LP. The full house stood and sang with all they had.

After a short intermission to reset the stage, Steve Miller and his longtime band mates ripped through a 21-song set. Due to Frampton playing slightly over in his set time and the imposed curfew restrictions of the venue, some of the songs were noticeably shortened or mixed in with others.

This was my third time seeing the Steve Miller Band, and each time I can't help but return to my youth in high school, sitting in a circle of friends singing his classic hits like "Take The Money And Run," "Jet Airliner,""Swingtown" and "Abracadabra."

One fascinating moment came when Miller spoke of the great artists that influenced him early on, like Carlos Santana, who set Latin percussion to the blues and inspired the writing of the song "Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma."

As he has done on previous nights of the tour, Miller invited Frampton back to the stage to jam on four classic American blues songs."Mercury Blues," "All My Lovin'," "Can't Be Satisfied" and "Stranger Blues."  Seeing Miller and Frampton sparring back and forth on the fretboards was a treat for all and obviously for them too, as they were able to stretch their musical muscles and show their love for American blues music.

Miller never fails to connect with his fans. All the hits were played — from "Serenade" (my personal favorite), to "Fly Like An Eagle," to "Space Cowboy" and "The Joker." With an extensive collection of guitars to his name, Miller's relationship with Fender is well known. For "Wild Mountain Honey" however, Miller brought out a very unique electric sitar. After explaining the intricacies of the strings and sound, the guitarist played the instrument like a magician. After the song, he quipped" :Everyone should have one of these!"

As the night came to a subtle but rushed close, Miller came out to a standing ovation and an adoring sing-along filled the air during "Jungle Love" and "Jet Airliner."

At the end of the show, as this crowd filed out and was once again reminded what a treasure we have in the silky smooth voice and guitar playing of Steve Miller, someone in the crowd shouted out a line from the song "Livin' In The USA" — "Somebody get me a cheeseburger!"

Ah yes! Summer in California, Peter Frampton and Steve Miller. Perfect!

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