Peter Frampton House of Blues October 16, 2011
If you own one Peter Frampton album, chances are it's Frampton Comes Alive!, the 1976 effort which sent the former Herd/Humble Pie singer and guitarist's solo career into the stratosphere. In the process, the title became kind of shorthand for a massively successful record and led to a slew of bands releasing their own double live discs, which continues to this day.
To celebrate the seminal record's 35th anniversary - or, more likely, as an obvious marketing angle - Frampton is performing the entire thing live on his current "FCA 35" tour. And the sold-out stop Sunday night at House of Blues easily proved the record still has legs, and that the 61-year-old Frampton is a musician who clearly enjoys performing for his audience (imagine that!) as well as an underrated guitarist.
Performed mostly (but not exactly) in the sequence of the record, the Frampton Comes Alive! songs - lyrics, solos, and melodies - were as comfortable and familiar as a well-worn concert T-shirt.
Of course, audience reaction peaked during the record's biggest hits and FM radio staples: The gently lolling "Baby I Love Your Way," which brought out the most smartphones taking video, "Show Me the Way," and, of course, the epic, talkbox-driven "Do You Feel Like We Do?" Love that talkbox, even after all these years!
Frampton was in good humor all night. After noting that the audience chant of "Peter" sounds like "Peanuts," the crowd took up the nuttier word while Frampton egged it on and his organist played a little baseball music. And seeing the large amount of video takers, he asked if footage would be uploaded to YouTube in time for the band to watch on the bus.
In a cheeky recorded intro before the show, an announcer pleaded with amateur Scorseses not to film during the song "Baby, I Love Your Way" because "there are already too many versions out there on the internet."
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Interestingly, it was on a trio of numbers - "It's a Plain Shame," "I Wanna Go to the Sun," and "(I'll Give You) Money" that Frampton and his band - including original Alive! bassist Stanley Sheldon - really took off to musical high points. The heavy, crunchy songs allowed for ample player interaction and solos.
After finishing Alive! and a scant intermission, Frampton took some chances with the material for the second set, eschewing his other hits (sorry, those pining for "I'm In You") for deeper tracks. This included "Asleep at the Wheel" from last year's Thank You Mr. Churchill album, and a number of instrumentals, including several from the non-singing Fingerprints record.
Pointing out his NASA shirt, Frampton dedicated the Pink Floyd-esque "Float" to some astronauts - who he said listened to the track in space - in the audience, while "Off the Hook" packed a real rock punch.
For Humble Pie fans, he proffered "Four Day Creep," perhaps not the best choice of a slice from his time with the band, but at least it was a sop. The best response came with his ambitious instrumental cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," a choice familiar to those who own Fingerprints, but not necessarily to a larger crowd.
Once they recognized it, though, audience members sang along heartily...or at least the chorus. And a show-closing cover of the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - a tribute to Frampton's friendship with George Harrison - ended things on a high note.
And yes, while the passage of time has naturally altered the appearance of the man on the cover of that famous record with the flesh-and-blood character onstage, Peter Frampton is a refreshingly real and down-to-earth classic rocker who simply lets his performance transport listeners to another era. Tight satin pants not required.
Personal Bias: Frampton Comes Alive! was required household listening on dad's stereo growing up, even with the occasional marijuana seed that would roll out of the gatefold album cover.
The Crowd: A sold-out show of mostly thirty-to-fiftysomethings in a mood to party.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Ugh! I am SWEATING BULLETS!" - From a tank-topped woman behind me, repeated four times in three minutes.
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Random Notebook Dump: I usually don't wish ill on people, but...hey you, musclehead guy with white ballcap and neck tattoo who kept bumping into people and screaming "WOOOOO!" in their ears: I hope your ass got pulled over for a DUI on the way home, and your field-sobriety walk was as shaky as your iPhone video.
Oh, and I hope somebody fucks that girlfriend while you're sitting in jail. Jackass.