Peter Frampton and Steve Miller on Wednesday, August 15 at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Paul Wellman (file)

If you came to this show hoping for a trip down memory lane arm in arm with two of the top selling artists of the 1970s, you got it — and a whole lot more. Peter Frampton opened with a varied and vigorous set that strayed far from the familiar sounds of Frampton Comes Alive, even in the middle of songs from that album. Frampton is an imaginative, jazz-influenced guitarist and his jams on songs like “(I’ll Give You) Money” and “Lines on My Face” showed how determined he remains to approach things from a fresh perspective.

One of the most exciting things about Steve Miller right now is how effectively he has continued to elaborate on the “space blues” formula he’s been expounding since The Joker and Fly Like an Eagle. When he recorded these hits back in the day, what mattered was the focus and simplicity that would earn them endless amounts of FM airtime. These days, in concert, Miller uses his big hits as launch pads for guitar-based explorations that can verge on Grateful Dead territory. Calling out Peter Frampton for a pair of classic blues covers – Freddie King’s “Same Old Blues” and Elmore James’s “Stranger Blues” – made for an unexpected highlight, with both musicians clearly having a ball performing the music that influenced them before they were famous.


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