Ok, let’s get a few things straight. The curls are gone; long swept away to the salon graveyard. The skin-tight satin trousers? No doubt in some British landfill. The high-pitched voice? Pretty much in tact but having a more fuller tonality. The guitar playing? All I can say is that Kim Thayil better watch out next time he plays “Black Hole Sun” because Frampton definitely has his number on this one. Rock star having mellowed with age? Not on your life.
In celebration of his six million selling Frampton Comes Alive turning thirty-five years old, Peter Frampton has been out on tour giving the album a regeneration, performing the songs as he played them in 1976 when he was recording for the live album; an album that would change not only his life but the world of music. It’s very hard to capture the spirit of a concert live. Men have gone mad trying to do so. Or they’ve over-produced the thing completely to death to where the only thing actually live is the audience noise. But Frampton Comes Alive was a birth long in coming and brought rock & roll to newer unprecedented heights. Frampton became an idol and a beautiful entity that recoiled on itself and brought the young man finally to his knees via too many cute magazine covers, somewhat sappy ballads and a movie monstrosity that killed everyone’s career except Aerosmith’s.
It’s now thirty-five years later and that young man has long fought back and killed the golden beast known as fame and has emerged victorious and respected once again. A few years ago, Frampton started making great music again. He dug into his psyche and sifted out notes and showed the world that not even a silly shirtless poster could derail him forever. His music once again started talking and we didn’t care what he looked like. Earning a Grammy in 2007 for Fingerprints was just icing on the cake.
The fans walking into the theatre in Biloxi on this Friday night came bearing reminders of the past: pictures and albums and money to burn on merchandise that celebrated a moment of their seventies youth. I saw young kids with parents whose anticipation caused their eyes to sparkle. I heard stories of how the famous tour was their first concert, their first album, their first kiss with FCA as the giddy background soundtrack.
Frampton has chosen to embrace this landmark of his career, taking the whole concoction on the road and breathing new life into some old songs. He is celebrating where some might choose to run. And lucky for the millions still out there that hold FCA in a revered state of worship, he is hitting many cities across the nation.
For almost three hours, Frampton did indeed come alive. His guitar playing was exceptional, beyond any preconceived ideas that he may have lost some of his fretting magic. In fact, he has grown stronger and bolder, with more of his soul intertwined into the strings and chords. Opening with “Something’s Happening” with a big smile on his face, he pulled you in gently before that aha moment of “I got you now” with an excellent “Show Me The Way” four songs in. And the ride only got better after that.
“I’ll Give You Money”, with its superb guitar interplay between Frampton and guitarist Adam Lester, the beautiful instrumental “Float”, the strong and dirty grind of “Asleep At The Wheel”, the bluesy grunge of Humble Pie’s “Four Day Creep” and the magically fun “Do You Feel Like We Do” were all glorious highlights of a night that showed everyone that Frampton can definitely keep up with all the young bloods out there trying to seize his guitar place in history.
The man can still rock, and he can still take a careless whisper of a melody and make you sigh. Witness “Baby I Love Your Way” and the encore of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, slowed down to a slow humble seduction; while “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” morphs into a Framptonized kicker that does and does not sound like the Stones classic. Listening to the original version on FCA, you can hear the subtle changes in the newer friskier version.
You have to give props to Frampton for never once looking like he wasn’t happy to be on that stage. His smile and sense of humor was infectious. He was comfortable up there amidst his band that consisted of FCA bass player Stanley Sheldon, drummer Dan Wojciechowski, guitarist Adam Lester and on keyboards and guitar Rob Arthur. At one point early on, while looking up at the screen behind him that ran photos and videos from his past, but at that moment was projecting a live shot, Frampton made a face and replied in mock-wonderment, “Who is that old geezer up there? Who is that?” Another time when a woman was yelling out her love for him, he yelled, “Lassie, I told you to wait in the car!” Laughter would always follow his comments, whether he was mentioning his need for Viagra to keep up with a remarkable Arthur keyboards solo or trying to spice up “Like We Do” with some personalized Biloxi idioms on the talk box: “Gonna gamble after the show; if we don’t they won’t let us come back”.
An enjoyable concert all the way around and no one left disappointed. If this is what Frampton coming alive is like in middle-age, he will still be jamming worth a damn at ninet