For five years in the mid-1970s the Steve Miller Band and Peter Frampton ruled the rock album charts, with hit records such as “The Joker” and “Fly Like An Eagle” for Miller, and “Frampton Comes Alive” for, well, Frampton.
So the pairing of the two, who’ve known each other for 50 years since meeting at Olympic Studios in London, makes a perfect kind of sense, and at Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa on Wednesday delivered one hit song after another, with even the album tracks earning cheers and applause given how we used to listen to Side 1 and then Side 2, all the way through, back in the day.
It was nostalgia at its finest, with both Miller and Frampton still possessed of supple voices at the microphone and fleet fingers dancing across the frets of their guitars, their current bands probably sharper than the fellas they played with back in the anything-goes lifestyle of the ’70s.
Yet for me, even more than hearing faves I grew up on such as “Show Me The Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do” from Frampton, or “Take The Money And Run” and “Jet Airliner” from Miller, the unexpected highlight of the night came during a mini-set when Miller invited opener Frampton back on stage to jam on four classic American blues songs.
It was there, Miller turned practically professorial in describing the origins of these songs – K.C. Douglas’ “Mercury Blues” from the Mississippi Delta, Otis Rush’s “All My Lovin’” from Chicago, Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied” a combination of both – that the simple joys that brought both of these guys to rock and roll in the ’60s revealed itself.
Miller’s vocals added a bit of growl to his normally smooth tone, and both he and Frampton, often standing face to face with big smiles on ’em, traded licks and solos in ways that both clearly loved as much as they did playing their own numbers.
“All aboard the Peter Frampton Express!” Miller hollered during “Stranger Blues,” the Elmore James number that wrapped up the quartet of blues songs, and off Frampton went, fingers blazing a trail up and down the neck of his red Gibson guitar, Miller not far behind with a lyrical slide lick.
“That was so much fun for us, I want to thank you for indulging us,” Miller said at the finish, and why wouldn’t they indulge these guys when the rest of the evening included practically every song you wanted to hear them play?