Peter Frampton @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 15th November 2011

Okay – I’m busy at these here gigs! Another gig for Birmingham Live! This time at the splendicious Symphony Hall.

To another refined gig at the wonderful Symphony Hall – a celebration of the recordings from 35 years ago – so for the third time in less than a week I’m transported to ’76, tonight it’s to Peter Frampton showcasing ‘The Frampton Comes Alive’ 35th Anniversary Tour.

Originally released in January 1976, ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’ is one of the best-selling live albums in chart history spending 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts and selling in excess of 17 million copies worldwide.
Previously a member of Humble Pie and The Herd, Frampton went solo in ’71 and since then he’s produced fourteen solo albums. He’s lucky to be here  – he survived a near fatal car crash in ’78. A regular on the touring circuit, he’s worked with a variety of artists including Bowie, members of Pearl Jam, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, to name but a few.

Tonight’s gig starts at 7.40pm with the first track from his classic album – ‘Somethings Happening.’ He starts as he means to go on – half way through the vocals for ‘Dobbie Wah’ a question “How’s that for you friends?” Third track in – a recognizable hit – ‘Show Me The Way’ – great rendition, the audience clap along.

“Thank you very much indeed – nice to be back. Home to Steve Winwood and Ozzy – been here many times – I’ve always loved playing here….” Frampton is chatty and engaging and refers to the days of vinyl, when you’re now at the end of side one and you have to get up from your spliff and turn the record over, before crashing back into your seat. … “That’s what I heard anyway…” he says with a cheeky grin.

The band are tight, Frampton’s guitar playing exquisite and mesmerizing, shown to it’s full potential in one of the best sound auditorium’s in the country. He comes across as a really lovely guy, clearly enjoying what he does. ‘(I’ll Give You) Money’ has rolling guitar solos, dueling onstage with fellow axesmith Adam Lester.

Then into a bluesy, laid back version of Humble Pie’s ‘Shine On’ before it morphs into The Stones ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, flicking a plectrum into the audience as he finishes the song.  ‘Do You Fell Like I Do’ has on screen accompaniment DO… YOU…. YOU… FEEL LIKE I DO…intermixed with pictures of fans holding the original vinyl album and some footage of his incarnation on “The Simpsons”. And includes the use of his wah-wah voice-box, a line on screen fluctuating with the sounds he makes…. “Can you understand what I’m saying…” fascinating to hear and listen to as his voice meanders in accompaniment to his guitar.

First part of the night over – time for an intermission, where a voiceover from Frampton invites us to “… take a break, go for a pee and come back in 20 minutes.”

Back on and we have more cartoon footage – this time an incarnation on “Family Guy,” followed by a series of instrumentals from the ‘Fingerprints’ CD – “Where I didn’t sing a note and they gave me an award…”

Next up from his new CD ‘Thank you Mr. Churchill’ he’s joined by son Julian on stage to sing the vocals on ‘Road to the Sun.’ Very late 70s / early 80s traditional rock – think Priest / Zeppelin / early Maiden. “Dunno how he got that tall….. (glint in the eye)… he pats me on the head now….”

And now to the song I’d heard he would do and was a bit nervous about, being a fan, a cover of Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’. There was no singing (besides a section on the voice box) but all in all, it was heavy with a psychedelic nuance – and it worked. “That was written by Chris Cornell and Soundgarden….” (The audience clearly have NO CLUE who either Cornell or Soundgarden are) “…. they’re currently touring and will be coming here soon.” (Me – Oh goodie! Excited now!)

Then an intro to the rest of the band, including “Mr. Stanley Shelton” (the only surviving member of the Frampton band from the 70’s) and into anther Humble Pie song ‘Four Day Creep’ and they’re off, a group hug on stage and a bow to the audience who give a standing ovation – they’ve clearly enjoyed it.

Back on for one last track, Frampton walks on stage playing the ‘Jaws’ theme tune, and meanders on his guitar before launching into a stunning version of Beatles track “While My Guitar Gently Weeps’  – the stand out track of the night.

“See you in the summer – keep on coming, this is wonderful…” and as they leave the stage, a nice touch, credits, not only of the band members but of all those involved in the tour, scroll up the screen.

Frampton is a genuinely nice guy, massively talented (while many people may not include him in their top list of guitar exponents in this country, they clearly should) and has a genuine infectious enthusiasm for what he does. Gone is the rock spirally perm look – but the passion and skill very much remain. I found myself nodding and foot-tapping to tracks, without realizing, and his is very transfixing on stage, whether you appreciate his axesmith abilities or not. And pretty much a three hour show….he gave us a show that was relevant, he used screens to the full, he engaged, he clearly enjoyed it. This audience was fifties / sixties, but I would say – even if you know little by him – well worth taking a peek when he’s around in the summer….


[Frampton Comes Alive – in its entirety]

Something’s Happening
Doobie Wah
Lines on my Face
Show me the way
It’s a Plain Shame
Wind of Change
Penny for your Thoughts
All I want To Be (Is By Your Side)
Baby I Love Your Way
I Wanna Go to the Sun
(I’ll Give You) Money
Shine On (Humbie Pie)
Jumping Jack Flash (Rolling Stones Cover)
Do You Feel Like We Do

Encore 1:
Asleep at the Wheel
Road to the Sun
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden Cover)
Four Day Creep (Humble Pie)

Encore 2:
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles Cover)

Frampton Comes Alive! (1976)