The only thing I knew with certainty about going to see Peter Frampton in concert was that I didn't really know what to expect. I'm used to going to dive bars, arenas, or clubs to see bands live. But the Cerritos Center For The Performing Arts is a very chi-chi kind of place which doesn't seem to me like a very friendly atmosphere for an evening of rock music. Also, Frampton's newest release Fingerprints is all instrumental tracks so I wasn't sure what he would play live this time around. But instead of researching it before hand, I figured I'd just go with the flow and see what would happen.
The Center is quite upscale indeed, with roaring fires and ambient lighting in the lobby area. The room with the stage is well appointed too, with comfy seats and private viewing boxes mounted on both sides reaching from the floor to the ceiling. The crowd was dressed in their Saturday night going out on the town best… even the kids that attended with their parents were bright and shiny. These were definitely not my (average) rock and roll people.
But then the lights went down, Peter Frampton came out on stage, and all the trappings slipped away as he and his bandmates put on a (nearly two hour) show that rocked the house. Quiet and unassuming as he may look today should you pass him on the street, put a guitar in this man's hands and everything is transformed into an extraordinary experience. He was warm and friendly with the audience and chatty as well. To start, he told us, "I'm gonna do stuff from my vinyl era." And that he did.
His first song was a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours," a concert standard for him and a subtle hint that we were as important to the show as he and the rest of the band were. It was a very upbeat beginning and I dug it, but not the fact that this is a sit-down kind of venue and not the stand up and dance around type.
Next he announced that they (the band) would do something that hadn't been done before. He said they'd put it together with a hum and a whistle and to please bear with them while they figured out which key to use. Typical self-effacing Brit humor in play here, he stepped over to the voice box microphone as the opening notes of "Show Me The Way" began. If you only know one of his songs, this is probably it. And everyone there definitely did and sang along with gusto.
Mr. Frampton is big on the audience sing-along, by the way. Maybe it's just because he's been dealing with it, like it or not, since the 1970's. Regardless, he made room in the songs for his devotees to add their bits and it's another one of those things that makes him a strong showman, that graciousness to make the song be not just about himself, but about one and all along for the ride with him.
"All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side)" was up next and updated as Frampton again poked fun at himself with a change in lyrics. "I don't care if they cut my hair; All I wanna be is by your side" became "I don't care if I have no hair…" as he pointed to his receding hairline with a grin. Which brings up a very good point. Here's a man that's been playing for decades and easily be put in the mega-star category. But there's no rockstar posturing or preening up there on the stage, it's not who he is. Oh, I almost forgot to mention it, in this live version of the song there's a beautiful acoustic solo, very lush and rich.
I like hearing about how songs come about and just before starting "Wind Of Change" Peter talked about it's beginnings. It's a sweet little story about his old friend George Harrison and how he (Peter) couldn't have written the song without him. He indicated that he'd borrowed the main riff from George, so that makes sense. The song was dedicated to Mr. Harrison and a sigh went through the crowd as if we were one, united in the remembered loss of another musical talent.
Now that everyone was warmed up, it was time to change modes. Gordon Kennedy was introduced, he's the other guitar player on the tour as well as being Frampton's co-producer on Fingerprints. Gordon has been around a while himself and has penned songs for Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood and George Strait. He won a Grammy for co-writing Eric Clapton's "Change The World." He's also an accomplished guitarist and worked with Jewel, Amy Grant, Reba McEntire, and many others. But I digress.
It was time for some tunes from Fingerprints and the first song was "Float." Gordon started out as lead guitar on this piece and then he and Peter traded bits back and forth. Peter Frampton is a player confident enough in his own accomplishments that he's not afraid to share the spotlight with others and it was great to see the two of them work off of one another in this song.
Bassist John Regan also has an impressive list of experience, including work with the Rolling Stones, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol, Bonnie Tyler, and David Bowie (to name a few). He was also involved with making Fingerprints and Peter said that it was his bassline that was responsible for the very funky "Boot It Up" being written. I love the song and live you could really hear the dynamics of the groove.
Last in this mini-concert-within-a-concert, taken from Peter's new release, was the cover version of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun." Yes, on the CD it's an instrumental like all the other tunes, but live you could hear the audience singing the parts that they knew. Peter joined us on the voice box mic for the last chorus.
"Baby I Love Your Way" and "I Wanna Go To The Sun" brought the show back to classic Frampton form. These led to the epic "Do You Feel Like We Do", probably considered by most to be Peter's signature piece. On Frampton Comes Alive it clocks in at over fifteen minutes. On this tour, or at least this particular night it must have been longer than that and worthy of the title for being recognized more than any of his other songs.
Of course there was the voice box effect and the sing-along parts. It rocked, got down and dirty bluesy, and rocked some more. There was a wicked keyboard solo as we were intro'd to Rob Arthur, another musician of note along for the tour. We met drummer Shawn Fichter. Usually I hate that part of a show, the obligatory masturbation solo where a lot of drummers will just bash about, seemingly without rhyme or reason as they throw in their best licks hoping to impress one and all. But his was just the right length — not too long, but enough to show that he knows what he's doing on those skins.
Gordon was re-introduced and John too, of whom Frampton said "I love this bass player and he's the balls of the band." In turn then, John called out Peter Frampton's name, the audience went nuts, and the entire band got a standing ovation before they continued on with the tune. See what I mean?? At least twenty minutes, but well worth it. In fact, the band could have probably done the whole show within the structure of "Do You Feel Like We Do" and no one would have left disappointed.
Then the stage went dark and Peter came back up to the mic with two words in question form "Humble Pie?" and everyone one in the house flipped out. The song they did was Ashford and Simpson's "I Don't Need No Doctor," recorded by Humble Pie in 1971. But it's been around longer than that as Ray Charles recorded his version of it in 1966. Did it sound like an old warhorse of a song? Abso-freakin'-lutely not. It was fresh and vibrant, a good sign as any that Peter Frampton is a consummate performer.
The show closed with one final cover, George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." A lovely yet haunting rendition, almost twenty-four hours later, I can still hear this playing in my head. It was a touching ending to a great show.
Unfortunately for those out there that didn't catch any of this part of the tour, this was one of the last dates. But you might be in luck if you live on the East Coast as the Official Peter Frampton website has some gigs slated in Pennsylvania and New York at the end of January, 2007. I've given you advance notice, so if you miss one of those shows, you only have yourself to blame.Powered by Sidelines