Photos & Review by Max Stewart
As I watched from the lawn of Merriweather Post Pavilion as Steve Miller and Peter Frampton worked their way through hit after hit of iconic Classic Rock, I had a thought that made my stomach drop: these two musicians struck a chord with a generation of Pop Rock fans beginning in the Seventies that has resonated into 2017. Who in this day and age will be performing at Merriweather on a warm summer night in 2050 that will be as authentic as these two legends? It’s certainly hard to think of one, much less two…
This bill is a must-see for anyone that has a soft spot for FM radio magic and an appreciation for polished musicianship. As Miller pointed out during his set, these seasoned rockers actually have a deep-rooted history, having toured together back in the Seventies. This double bill brings every bit of joy you would expect from the classics (“Do You Feel Like We Do,” “Jungle Love,” “Baby I Love Your Way,” “The Joker,” the list goes on and on), with a touch of backyard BBQ sauce to give the songs a unique zest.
One thing was certain once Frampton took the stage and strapped on his sunburst Gibson Les Paul, this man has earned every stripe as a high-ranking guitar phenom. Standing in front of three Marshall stack amplifiers, Frampton kicked things off with a fury on “Something’s Happening,” the opener from his highly-acclaimed album, Frampton Comes Alive!, before sophisticatedly wailing some distorted lead guitar parts on “Lines on My Face” and “(I’ll Give You) Money.” He even threw in an acoustic new single, “I Saved a Bird Today”, which is, as the title suggests, about caring for a bird that ran into his home’s window.
The most touching portion of the evening came when Frampton did an instrumental cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” dedicated to the memory of Chris Cornell. While Cornell’s portrait somberly was displayed, Frampton’s tasteful guitar interpretations of the vocal parts was the best musical tribute I have seen to the late singer. Frampton revealed after much-loved versions of “Show Me the Way” and “Baby I Love Your Way” that he actually wrote both numbers on the same day while on vacation in the Bahamas. He must have really tapped into some fruitful inspiration that day in the Caribbean, in search of the ‘the way’…
If you claim to be a Classic Rock aficionado, not much can beat seeing the “Do You Feel Like We Do” in concert. In many ways, Frampton is also synonymous with the talkbox used in the song, and for good reason– he has mastered the distinct guitar effect and brought it into the mainstream (Frampton jokingly stated “we’ve been through a lot together” through the world-famous talkbox). He encored with a tune from his old band Humble Pie, “Four Day Creep,” which featured a deep-fried riff that surely has blasted from pool hall and biker bar speakers all across the country.
The Steve Miller Band took the stage in front of an instantly-recognizable backdrop of the Pegasus cover from 1977’s Book of Dreams. Out of the gate, Miller & Co. gave some breezy renditions of the slow-rolling “The Stake” and synthy “Abracadabra” (Is “Abracadabra, I wanna reach out and grab ya” the greatest lyrical rhyme in music? I dare say yes). The summer buzz was strong as the sun set over the Maryland skyline during the organ-heavy “Living in the U.S.A.” and infectious, Bonnie & Clyde lyrical journey, “Take the Money and Run.”
In one of the highlights of the evening, Miller brought out Frampton for a couple of old Blues covers, “All Your Love (I Miss Loving)” by Otis Rush and “Stranger Blues” by Elmore James. Seeing Miller and Frampton appear to have a genuine friendship and support for one another makes this tour one of a kind. Oftentimes, when two major bands tour together, it feels like it is purely for the money as the supporting act immediately hops on the tour bus and back to the Ritz Carlton after their set. Nothing feels contrived about these two on the bill together, and it was very gratifying to see some mutually-appreciated collaboration.
“I bought this in 1965, one of my first guitars,” Miller divulged some background on the lavish 19-string ‘sitar guitar’ before “Wild Mountain Honey.” “I got it at Manny’s Music in New York. It has 6 knobs, 3 pickups in the shape of lipstick tubes, a pickguard mounted on the strings, and a mirror on the back! It’s a sitar guitar from the trippy Sixties!” Miller had no shortage of Space Cowboy facts throughout the show: he revealed that “Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma” was written at the historic Fillmore Auditorium and the rhinestone-covered guitar he played during “The Joker” was given to him when he was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
As Steve Miller kept the party rolling, I was completely awestruck that he is 73. His voice and onstage charisma gave no indication of aging and there were no signs he’s planning to stop anytime soon. The Steve Miller Band’s performance had something for everybody: there were moments of Pop Rock exuberance (“True Fine Love”, “Rock’n Me”), psychedelia (“I Want To Make the World Turn Around, “Wild Mountain Honey”), flat-out grooving (“Jet Airliner”, “The Joker”), and impressive instrumentation (“Fly Like an Eagle”, “Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma”).
If you enjoy melodic Rock ‘N’ Roll and appreciate the gift of live music, seeing these two icons is the musical equivalent of an ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day. Comforting tunes amongst the diluted haziness of contemporary Pop that are instantly refreshing and satisfying. Who knows how much longer we will have the luxury to see not one but TWO legends in an outdoor setting. No frills, no fluff, no lasers; just pure musicians playing their treasured catalog of music for thousands of fans.
Peter Frampton – 6/23/17 – Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD
Something’s Happening, Lying, Lines on My Face, Show Me the Way, I Saved a Bird Today, Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden cover), (I’ll Give You) Money, Baby I Love Your Way, Do You Feel Like We Do
E: Four Day Creep (Ida Cox cover)
Steve Miller Band – 6/23/17 – Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, MD
The Stake, Swingtown, Abracadabra, Living in the U.S.A., Take the Money and Run,
All Your Love (I Miss Loving) (Otis Rush cover)*, Stranger Blues (Elmore James cover)*, True Fine Love, Dance Dance Dance, I Want to Make the World Turn Around, Wild Mountain Honey, Serenade, Space Cowboy, Shu Ba Da Du Ma Ma Ma Ma, The Joker, Space Intro, Fly Like an Eagle, Rock’n Me
E: Jungle Love, Threshold, Jet Airliner (Paul Pena cover)
*w/ Peter Frampton