Peter Frampton | A Magical Evening with a Rock Giant

Peter Frampton (photo by Gregg Roth)

Crystal clear blue eyes . . . cool serene smile . . . sweetly shaped guitar notes. All these are the signature characteristics of legendary guitar virtuoso Peter Frampton.

During the past few months, Frampton has been touring the U.S. marking the 35th anniversary of his famous 1976 Frampton Comes Alive (FCA) concert LP that was actually performed at two locations in 1975. It is one of the best-selling live albums, ever! On Saturday, August 27, 2011, Frampton and his band played at Riverside Casino, where they reanimated the entire concert experience. During the second half of the program, the band played tracks from Frampton’s three most recent CDs, spanning the period 2003 to 2010.

Born in England in 1950, Peter Frampton played with several bands as a teenager. In 1969, he joined Steve Marriott to form Humble Pie. In 1970, he collaborated with George Harrison in the recording session for Harrison’s All Things Must Pass CD. It was during this period that Peter was introduced to the talk-box device that he made famous on the FCA album. 

After five albums with Humble Pie, Peter went solo in 1971. In the next few years he recorded three LPs, but none sold very well. However, when those same songs were released as live tracks on FCA, sales exploded. Frampton Comes Alive sold more than six million copies in the U.S. For a few years, Frampton took the wild ride on his wave of international fame.

After a near-fatal auto accident in 1978, Frampton slipped from the public scene for many years, periodically surfacing to record an album or collaborate with old band mates, including Steve Marriott. As the memory of those early days faded from public awareness, many of us still fondly held onto the image of the shirtless, long-haired, boyishly good-looking Peter Frampton that graced the 1976 cover of Rolling Stone magazine. We quietly yearned for the Peter Frampton experience without realizing that he has been creating new music that resonates with our musical sensibilities.

Yes, we’re talking about the Riverside concert! With great anticipation, our group of six joined the crowd of a few thousand people next to the casino. A veil of clouds formed to shield us from the setting sun. When Peter and band took the stage, we all remarked about how good he looked, healthy, happy, and keenly alert. As the evening unfolded, we sang and swayed and danced to his classic tunes, including “Show Me the Way,” “Baby I Love Your Way,” and “Do You Feel Like We Do?”

Frampton brought out his talk-box guitar. The talk-box is an effects unit that allows a musician to modify the guitar frequency by using his mouth over a plastic tube attached to the device. It is the highlight of a Frampton concert and he made the most of it at Riverside. The band played for three hours without a break. Stanley Sheldon, the only remaining member of Frampton’s ’70s band, held up solid bass lines.

Now, we get to the really good stuff….

In the second half, Peter offered tracks from more recent works, revealing that his percolating creative juices continue to flow abundantly. The standing ovation at the end of the concert was as much an affirmation of his recent work as it was for his earlier music. The crowd floated skyward with the encore “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” In the conjuring of George Harrison’s song, Peter was clearly moved as he dropped some of the misty-eyed lyrics within his own tears of joy or sadness. 

Recommended Tracks

Since his musical resurrection, beginning with the CD Now in 2003, Peter also recorded a Grammy-award winning album of instrumental pieces called Fingerprints in 2006 and then Thank You, Mr. Churchill in 2010.

To rediscover Peter Frampton through his post-2003 era, check out the following tracks.

From the 2003 Now CD, in addition to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” you will find pleasure in “Above It All” where you will fly high, “just me and you chasing the sunshine.”

From the 2006 instrumental Fingerprints CD: “Float” begins with memories of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and moves deftly towards Roy Buchanan territory through haunting, well-shaped blues notes that, like Buchanan’s, seem to plead for the Messiah (or a good woman) to come again. “Double Nickels” begins with an acoustic tumble like Simon & Garfunkle’s “Hello, Mrs. Robinson” before it transforms into a likeable Jeff Beck jazz-fusion piece. Explore the rest of the CD for more delights.

From the 2010 Hello, Mr. Churchill CD, Frampton comments on the financial crisis on the song “Restraint” as he observes that the “greedy pigs” have ruined us “with no restraint.” The middle guitar solo is the good news surrounding the unpleasant storyline. On the instrumental track “Suite Liberte,” Frampton pays tribute to Megumi Yokota, a Japanese woman who was abducted in 1979 by agents of the North Korean government.  Somewhere in this song, I am transported to memories of cool summer nights in the 1960s.

So now you know that there’s more to Peter Frampton than Frampton Comes Alive. Look forward to more delights from this master of the guitar, who so deliciously shapes his notes and crafts his lyrics to create joy in the listener.      

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