Frampton comes alive in Worcester
A review of Peter Frampton at the Hanover Theatre on February 4, 2012
It’s been over 35 years since the original Frampton Comes Alive! was recorded in Winterland, California and though Peter Frampton may no longer be sporting his golden locks, nothing else seems to be missing. The guitar legend and his band were in fine form Saturday night at the Hanover Theatre as they delivered the best of both old and new in a lengthy three-hour show. The night was divided into two sets with Frampton Comes Alive! in its entirety taking place first, followed by a wide-ranging selection of songs from the rest of his career.
For Frampton fans, nothing matches the exhilaration of reliving the guitarist’s seminal live album. The guitar-heavy rock tunes served as a portal straight back to the ’70s for nostalgic baby boomers who packed the theatre. And that affection was clear as Frampton emerged onto the stage (after a droll curtain call from the recorded voice of none other than William Shatner) to deafening applause. The grinning six-string virtuoso had to wait for the cacophony to subside before launching into the lively chords of “Something’s Happening”. Frampton wasted no time diving into his first solo, a dazzling display of fretwork that annihilated the doubts of any fans worried that the years had stolen his dexterity. It was just the first of many stunning solos that Frampton would deliver over the course of the show. His fretwork shined throughout the night with “Lines On My Face”, “It’s a Plain Shame” and “I Wanna Go To The Sun” serving as the foremost standouts.
It wasn’t just Frampton’s guitar doing the talking, though, as he frequently paused between songs to pepper the audience with clever japes and sardonic comments about the loss of his hair, ad-libbing the line “I don’t care that I’ve got no hair” in “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)”. Whether it be his riffs or his wit, Frampton was determined to provide his fans their money’s worth.
The crowd didn’t have to wait long for one of the night’s most anticipated songs with “Show Me The Way” proving to be an early treat. An explosion of cheers rocked the theatre as Frampton began playing the lively melody, and only doubled in amplitude when he broke out the legendary “Framptone”, the Englishman’s custom talk-box that distorts his voice into an electronic hum. Frampton has mastered the technique, and displayed it – to the audience’s delight – by vocalizing a groovy, buzzing solo and singing out “Here we are in Worcester!” in a half-Framptone, half-Frampton voice.
After “Wind of Change”, “Penny For Your Thoughts” and smash hit “Baby I Love Your Way” – among several other FCA! tracks, the band closed its first set with crowd favorite “Do You Feel Like We Do”. Besides rousing even the most rhythmically challenged fans into dancing, the song featured a brilliant moment when Frampton, after another extended solo, exchanged furious leads with keyboardist Rob Arthur. The song turned into a ten-minute jam session, with Arthur taking over after several minutes to hammer out a hypnotizing melody on the keys. Frampton jumped back on the talk box to sing the chorus one more time, and the song closed with a thunderous crescendo. It was a spectacular finale to celebrate one of rock’s greatest live records, and the only possible way to follow it up was with more Frampton.
Perhaps it was because the band had already blitzed through the best that Frampton’s career has to offer, or maybe the audience was still reveling in the past, but the second set failed to match the intensity of the first. Showing much less enthusiasm for newer material than the performer did, the crowd was very passive for the remainder of the night. Despite more ferocious solos from Frampton, songs like “Asleep at the Wheel” and “Restraint” only garnered modest applause, while “Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolele” (a quirky anecdotal tune recounting how Frampton got into playing guitar) fell flat.
Still, the later did serve to showcase the underscored talents of Frampton’s backing band, especially in a three-song offering of his Grammy-winning instrumental album Fingerprints. Guitarist Adam Lester relieved Frampton of the spotlight to fret out the slow, haunting melody of “Float”, before the frontman returned and the pair closed the song in eerie unison. Arthur took the lead in the catchy “Cornerstones” to bang out an intricate solo and “Double Nickels” gave Lester another chance to take centerstage with impress fretwork.
Closing in on three hours, Frampton and his band finished the night on a strong note. A surprising cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” – in which Frampton sang the chorus through the talk box – brought the audience to their feet, and then it was time for the much-anticipated Humble Pie (one of Frampton’s first bands, a blues-rock project). Bassist Stanley Sheldon – the only remaining musician to play with Frampton on FCA! – took honors of soloing in “Four Day Creep” and Arthur displayed a terrific, gritty blues voice as he sang out the chorus. After Frampton closed the song with another tremendous display of fretwork, the band returned for an encore of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” featuring one last soulful solo from Frampton to put the finishing touches to an excellent show.
Frampoton’s new material may not be exciting as reliving that one Winterland night, but Saturday’s show proved that minus the hair, the guitar legend hasn’t lost a single step and is still very much alive.
1. Something”s Happening
2. Doobie Wah
3. Lines On My Face
4. Show Me The Way
5. It’s A Plain Shame
6. Wind of Change
7. Just the Time of Year
8. Penny for Your Thoughts
9. All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)
10. Baby I Love Your Way
11. I Wannna Go To The Sun
12. (I’ll Give You) Money
13. Shine On
14. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
15. Do You Feel Like We Do
16. Asleep at the Wheel
20. Double Nickels
21. Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolele
22. All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)
23. Black Hole Sun
24. Four Day Creep
25. While My Guitar Gently Weeps