Frampton's Classic "Comes Alive" Again at Foxwoods
Peter Frampton "Frampton Comes Alive" 35th Anniversary Tour MGM Grand Theater Foxwoods Resort Casino Mashantucket, CT July 16, 2011
Peter Frampton released the record that made his career 35 years ago, the two-disc live set Frampton Comes Alive!, that was more than just an album, it was a phenomenon. You heard it everywhere. Frampton went from British workingman rocker to Rock Star. Every band needed a double-live set after that, it was the new standard. A line from the breakout hit Show Me The Way said it all: "I can't believe this is happening to me."
Frampton told USA Today in an interview prior to the 35th Anniversary retrospective tour that his friend, film director Cameron Crowe (Jerry McGuire, Almost Famous) perhaps said it best. "He said, 'The look on your face (on the album cover) is that of a man who's just been shot into outer space.'"
Yet, his most cherished achievement was not the 16 million-selling milestone record, but the Grammy he won for his 2006 instrumental album Fingerprints, he told the paper. And while the 25th anniversary was noted with a re-recording, he had never played the full album in concert since the '70s and now, "I figured it would be nice to do the whole thing."
The July 16th stop at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods kicked off with Something's Happening, just as the album did, and Frampton proceeded to recreate Comes Alive track-by-track, varying only slightly from the recording, instead going by the actual running order of the concerts of the time (the limitations of only 22 minutes per album side made it impossible to put some of the longer jams back-to-back.)
Frampton, along with band members Adam Lester (guitar), John Regan (bass), Rob Arthur (keyboards, guitars, vocals) and Dan Wojciechowski (drums) kicked into the playful Doobie Wah. Lines On My Face (the second-to-last song on the record) was next, accompanied by a video on the big screen with images of Peter from his boyhood through his early days as a rocker with Humble Pie and Frampton's Camel and into the superstar success. A few in the upper-balcony area where I was seated were getting restless until hearing the opening bars of his biggest hit, Show Me The Way, with its jangling guitars and "talkbox," an instrument he popularized.
Playing his famous, black Gibson Les Paul model guitar, Frampton tore into the bluesy rocker, It's a Plain Shame. "Does anyone remember the acoustic spot of the album?" he asked before going solo on acoustic guitar for Winds of Change and the breathtakingly beautiful instrumental, Penny For Your Thoughts, with its pretty picking and haunting harmonics.
All I Want (Is To Be By Your Side) closed this pleasant, acoustic portion of the show and perfectly led into another favorite, Baby, I Love Your Way that prompted an audience singalong.
Frampton showed his prowess on acoustic guitar
Clockwise from top: John Regan (bass), Rob Arthur (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Adam Lester (guitar), Dan Wojciechowski (drums)
Guitarists Adam Lester and Peter Frampton face off during "I'll Give You Money"
Rob Arthur's keyboard solo exactly duplicated the record's, much to the delight of the crowd. His piano intro to I Wanna Go To The Sun was deceptively soft, soon giving way to an epic, seven-minute jam with Frampton back on the Les Paul. The momentum continued on I'll Give You Money with Frampton cutting loose a viscous lead guitar riff to open and breaking the show wide open on his solo as a trippy, '60s psychedelic video played behind him. He faced off with Australian-born guitarist Adam Lester on a fiery, six-string duel. That was the jam! The crowd erupted.
The familiar opening riff of Do You Feel Like We Do? was wildly welcomed. Though not a hit single, the track was played to death on FM radio back in the day and remains a Frampton favorite. Using the talkbox effectively, as he did on the disc, he asked "do you feel like we do?" and "are you having a good time?" as delerious fans crowded up to the stage. During this long interlude, various images came up on the video screen, including Frampton's appearance on of The Simpsons.
Frampton comes alive as a toon on "The Simpsons," left, and the iconic cover image, right.
Despite this awesome recreation of one of the greatest albums in rock history, it was the encore that really kicked my ass: a killer cover of the Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps that out-rocked even Eric Clapton (who guested on the Fab Four's original). Frampton really showed off his prowess here with a version that was a little slower and more soulful than the Beatles' and with more distortion and crunch. Frampton tore it up, shredded it into little pieces, and didn't leave anything behind.
It was a good show. I hate to nit-pick, but I was expecting more. There was no opening act and so I was expecting the concert to run longer. It was advertised on his web site as "Frampton Comes Alive! performed in its entirety plus highlights from the rest of his Grammy-winning career." One track from the record, his cover of the Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash, was omitted, along with all the bonus tracks from the 25th Anniversary album that I thought he might've included. Nor did he play any "highlights from the rest of his Grammy-winning career," such as his biggest hit single, I'm In You (title track of his followup to Comes Alive!) or his popular remake of Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed Delivered (I'm Yours) from that same record, or anything from the Fingerprints album that actually won him the Grammy. Though I wouldn't characterize the show as "short," it was not what I expected, either. In fact, when the band disappeared after Do You Feel Like We Do? I couldn't believe the show was over, although the crowd was on its feet, shouting and applauding, I still thought Frampton might just be on a quick piss break or something.
And it's not Frampton's fault that I didn't try harder to get better seats. I'm not used to front-row tix or anything, but this was my first time within spitting distance of the back wall since a 2001 Godsmack concert in Worcester where I was up so high, I got vertigo. It was like being in the bleacher seats at a Yankees game or something, I'm there in my suit with my notebook and camera with all this riff-raff. I've never seen so many people getting up and walking around during a show. The lady next to me whined that she didn't recognize the first few songs (she wasn't aware he was tracking the album). A moron almost knocked me down the aisle and I could sense a fistfight coming. The airdrummer in front of me thought he was in the band (yet he couldn't clap along with the rhythm when everyone else was doing so).
I've seen worse, sure. Much worse. Getting caught in a stage rush at a Stones show in 1974. Jammed on the sweltering, 110-degree field in a sweaty, putrid human throng in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in 1988 for Aerosmith. Or the Sevendust and Nonpoint show at Toad's Place when my date wigged out and insisted we huddle next to the fire exit when the place was bulging to its capacity of drunks. Or the Motley Crue show at the Dunk in Providence where everyone looked like they were in a biker gang or just got out of prison. I had a projectile-vomiting drunk on one side of me that night and a guy who OD'd on the other who was carried out by the EMT's.
Concerts are fun.
I was reminded that there's good reason to try for better seats beyond just the view. Sorry about these photos, btw, I was looking straight down at Frampton's graying pate from my spot in the millionth row. I even photographed the video screen at one point, thinking the shots I was taking would be unusable.
These misgivings aside, I will say that Frampton delivered on his promise to recreate his legendary hit album and showed that his guitar playing and singing are as good as ever. I'm glad I witnessed this legendary rocker perform his landmark achievement.