Okee dokee folks … The other night I had a chance to relive a bit of my youth. I saw Peter Frampton in concert for the first time in 35+ years. Back when I was 16 years old, the Peter Frampton concert at the Civic Center was the hottest ticket in town. The show at Twin River seemed to be at capacity, but unlike the teen crowd in the ’70s this gathering was much, much, MUCH older. It was like an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” If I closed my eyes and listened, I was 16 again. But when I opened them I was shocked back to reality when I saw Frampton and the AARP crowd.
After being introduced by some guy (unknown to me, anyway) in a top hat and dreadlocks as “Peter F*ckin’ Frampton,” Frampton took the Twin River stage at about 8:10. He came out playing the lead track from his blockbuster ’76 live album Frampton Comes Alive. He was backed by a four-piece band of guitar, bass, keys and drums. Without stopping, the band launched right into the next song, which was a cover of Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel.” They continued non-stop into “Doobie Wah.” After a change of guitars from a Les Paul to a hollow body electric, Frampton led the band with “Show Me The Way” and stepped to the center microphone where his signature talk-box was waiting to wah. After this, he took a moment to address the audience. “Good evening, Lincoln. It’s very nice to have you all here. Do you come to the casino a lot?” He kept chatting and added, “I’d like to play a number … number … number.” There’s a natural echo in the event center at Twin River and he was playing with it. He went on by saying, “It sounds like I am giving an inaugural speech. Maybe I should run. I’ll be on a box of Corn Flakes. That is all I can afford.”
A long guitar instrumental prefaced one of my fav Frampton songs, “Lines On My Face.” The two large screens that flanked the stage constantly distracted me from the “live” action on the stage. At times it was nice to have a better view as I enjoyed watching Frampton’s fingers wandering up and down the neck of his Les Paul. Again, Peter chatted up the crowd, “Hello … hello. This is fun. We’re having a good time. My production manager has a lot of friends here and they all seem to be Italian. I love Italians.” Then, in his best RI accent he kept on, “What the f*ck … yuse guys kill me.”
When he finished with his fascination with RI Italians he embarked upon a truly amazing, instrumental version of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” For the most part it was solely instrumental, but a few of the lines were added and “sung” through the talk-box, which proved to be a perfect pairing for the number. The audience jumped to their feet at the finish and gave it a standing ovation. It really was impressive. “I’ll Give You Money” was next in the set. The song built in intensity and the pulsing beat backed Frampton and guitarist Adam Lester while they traded solos face to face on center stage. As the jam concluded, Frampton and Lester fist bumped and finished the song. Again this brought the audience up into a standing ovation.
Frampton picked up his Martin acoustic guitar and told the audience, “I wrote this next song while I was on an island. I wrote two songs that day. The other song was ‘Show Me The Way.’ I wish I had another day like that!” “Baby I Love Your Way” was the song he started into. This had folks filling in lines with Frampton’s “don’t hesi-ta-i-ate” and singing along to the chorus. Though there was no “Bob Mayo on the keyboard” in this band, Rob Arthur played the Rhodes nicely on the song’s instrumental passage.
The next song brought out Frampton’s black, triple pick-up Les Paul — the guitar I have lusted over for most of my life. After strapping it on he played the highly recognizable first notes to “Do You Feel Like We Do?” Once again Frampton played the talk-box, talking to and toying with the crowd through it, “Can you hear me? Do you feel like we do? Do you want to try this?” He laughs, “Sometimes I just crack myself up!” This time Frampton swapped solos with Arthur on the keys and at one point he was viciously and quickly slapping the ivories. The extended jam concluded with Frampton introducing the band and “singing” their praises. At 9:30 the song and set wrapped and Frampton threw his guitar pick into the audience. The band then lined up and took their bows.
People were again on their feet and cheering for more. The house lights came up. Surprisingly Frampton came out once again. “What’s with the house lights? Turn them off, we’re going to be longer!” The encore, a passionate version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” concluded the night.
Many folks probably still think of Peter Frampton as the blonde, teeny-bopper idol from the 1970s. He is far from that. The blonde locks are gone and replaced with tufts of grey. Now at 66 years old he is the farthest thing from a hearthrob. He was first known as an amazing guitarist with bands like The Herd and Humble Pie. It was the teens who bought the records and launched him to the icon status, but that soon faded after the follow-up to his live release, the album I’m In You, which he fortunately did NOT play any of. It seemed Frampton had faded into history. For me he sort of did. Though he has been performing and touring pretty consistently I am sure that most still think of him as a forgotten teen idol. The show at Twin River showcased his immense guitar talent and showed he is far from just a teen idol of the ’70s. He truly appears to still enjoy what he is doing as evidenced by the smile on his face as he plays. Though the show was relatively short it was just enough to remind me how much I really did enjoy Frampton’s music and how much of an impact that Frampton Comes Alive had on me when I was young. Though we are now old, closing my eyes brought me back in time and it sounded just as good, no actually BETTER than it did back then.
Thanks for reading. JohnFuzek.com